Keynote: ‘The future of healthcare in Washington State’ with Sue Birch and Drew Oliveira


Eli Kirshbaum


We were truly honored to host two of Washington State’s most impactful health leaders to kick off our recent 2023 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) Director Sue Birch and Washington Health Alliance Executive Director Drew Oliveira shared their perspectives on recent state health policy movement and their hopes for the future of Washington healthcare during the morning keynote.


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Birch said she’s “morally outraged” at the “waste and disfunction” taking place in the state’s healthcare system, particularly concerning the inequities communities of color and rural residents face in accessing healthcare. Addressing these inequities is a key goal in her leadership of the HCA, in addition to lowering overall healthcare costs.

“If this country can’t live under the soon-to-be $6.3 trillion projection of healthcare spending, what is wrong with us?” Birch said. “We are crowding out economic and environmental issues, and other social programs, that need funding as well. So I think we, collectively, in this state—it’s certainly why I continue to commit to Washington—we’ve got it in us to work together to create kind of our destiny going forward.”

Oliveira discussed the lasting impacts the pandemic is having on Washington’s healthcare workforce.

“We’ve got a beleaguered workforce. The pandemic really kind of frayed a lot of folks, a lot of people left the industry completely,” he said. “That leads to sort of a work of scarcity, so you’re working sort of understaffed. That part can’t continue long term, otherwise it becomes a culture of scarcity, and that’s really important to try to nip pretty quickly. My bias is that the way you do that is you always focus on quality.”

Watch the full keynote above.