Thank you so much to everyone who joined us at the 2022 Inland Northwest State of Reform Health Policy Conference last week! It was an exciting day filled with insightful presentations and engaging conversations.
In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” we feature keynote videos from the conference, coverage of our panel conversation on the growing cost of care, and a Q&A with Jess Molberg, Senior Director of Behavioral Health at Coordinated Care.
State of Reform
1. Keynote videos: Dr. Charissa Fotinos & Ingrid Ulrey
Washington State Medicaid Director Dr. Charissa Fotinos kicked off our conference with keynote remarks on the future of the state’s safety net. During the conversation she discussed preparations for the end of the federal public health emergency, HCA priorities, and efforts to expand care to those who don’t qualify for Medicaid or other federally subsidized programs.
Ingrid Ulrey, Regional Director for the US Department of Health and Human Services (Region 10), then discussed HHS’s top 3 national health issues during our Afternoon Keynote. She says the top priorities, as directed by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, include COVID-19 response and recovery, the national mental health strategy, and health equity, coverage, and access. A video of her full remarks is available here.
2. Experts discuss health care cost growth
Health experts discussed rising health care costs and initiatives that could help mitigate them during our “Updates on efforts to regulate cost growth” panel at last week’s conference. Dr. Sharon Eloranta from the Washington Health Alliance told attendees that in 2015, 2.08% (almost $9.5 billion) of the state’s GDP went to state-funded health care spending. “But 5 years later,” she said, “it was almost $14 billion and closer to 3% of the GDP. And that’s not sustainable.”
Part of the issue, says Dr. Peter Rutherford, former CEO of Confluence Health, is inconsistencies with reimbursement rates. “Some services are very expensive and poorly reimbursed,” Rutherford said. “Some are relatively less expensive and very well reimbursed. And that disparity is a difficult issue.” Full coverage of the panel, where speakers also discussed workforce-related costs, federal subsidies, and Cascade Care Select Plans, is available here.
3. What They’re Watching: Jess Molberg, Coordinated Care
Jess Molberg is the Senior Director of Behavioral Health at Coordinated Care, which serves Washingtonians across the state along with specialty populations including those in foster care. In this edition of “What They’re Watching,” Molberg discusses a Coordinated Care program that aims to support patients experiencing addiction during pregnancy.
Molberg says there’s a broad suite of needed services for individuals experiencing substance use disorder during pregnancy. Through partnerships with clinics and telehealth venders, their program aims to bring together those services and provide them in a single place. “That way the person can just go get their OB appointment, and they can also get some of the mental health and substance use treatment while they’re in the building through telehealth. So you’re not going to multiple places.”
4. Three BH apprenticeship programs launch this fall
This fall, the Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium will begin offering 3 new behavioral health apprenticeship programs. Through conversations with behavioral health employers in the state, the consortium identified three occupations to launch programs for: behavioral health technicians, peer counselors, and substance use disorder professionals.
Apprentices will work full-time while gaining skills taught by experienced teachers, coaches, and mentors, says SEIU 1199NW Multi Employer Training Fund Executive Director Laura Hopkins. She says funds for the consortium came from several sources including the Ballmer Group ($5 million), King County ($4 million), the state ($1.5 million), and the City of Seattle. “The funding allowed us to build a great curriculum,” Hopkins said. “The grant money pays for apprentices to have a wage on the day they go to school.”
5. Commerce awards $20.8 million for permanent housing
The Washington State Dept. of Commerce awarded $20.8 million in new grants to nonprofit organizations for supportive services and the maintenance and operation of 3,135 permanent housing units across the state. The funding, which was made possible though expanded document recording fees, builds off $19.5 million already granted to providers for permanent supportive housing.
Funding will go to 81 different organizations and will provide gap funding for providers to support the units. Commerce says reimbursement for the costs of supportive services provided to residents is also available. The permanent supportive housing prioritizes individuals with complex behavioral or physical health conditions who need comprehensive support services to stay housed. The full list of awardees is available here.