Gov. Inslee sends letter to Sens. Alexander and Murray on health care costs

Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), outlining recommendations for lowering costs and improving the quality of health care in the United States.

The letter, which is addressed to U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, comes in response to a request for input from the HELP committee. The request called for input from lawmakers, governors, insurers, patients, hospitals, and economists, among others, asking for “specific recommendations to help address America’s rising health care costs.”

 

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Inslee’s 12-page letter describes Washington’s innovations related to health care access, cost, and quality.

Here, Inslee highlights Cascade Care (the state’s public option proposal currently moving through the legislature), Washington’s move toward value-based purchasing, the state’s leadership in long-term care services as well Washington’s commitment to physical and behavioral health integration.

“Washington has led the nation in many areas to improve cost and quality of health care. We have implemented the ACA nearly flawlessly… We are improving our systems through efforts like integrating physical, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment, and expanding access to community-based behavioral health services, which has the potential to improve care and save money,” wrote Inslee.

However, despite these areas of leadership, Inslee points to “significant challenges” that still remain, including the slow rise of Washington’s uninsured rate, the shrinking individual market, health disparities, and the opioid crisis.

Inslee puts the responsibility for some of those challenges on actions by the Trump administration to dismantle portions of the ACA.

“We are still fighting federal changes that have caused instability and increased costs in the individual health insurance market due to ill-advised efforts to repeal the ACA and related Congressional and federal administration actions that have severely weakened our individual market,” wrote Inslee. “These actions have caused double-digit premium increases, with a combined impact contributing to nearly 50 percent premium increases over the last two years combined, and a lack of choice of insurers in 14 counties.”

The letter includes over 30 specific recommendations for Congress and the federal government to improve overall affordability and quality.  

The recommendations include the elimination of short-term limited duration health insurance plans, Medicaid expansion, better data-sharing, allowing Medicaid programs to pool and negotiate prices, rural health transformation, reinstating the individual mandate penalty, and the prioritization of public health funding.

The letter to Alexander and Murray is also signed by Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Health Care Authority Director Sue Birch, and Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Health Benefit Exchange. The full letter is available here.