DJ Wilson | Mar 24, 2021

Consider signing up for our 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference coming up on April 7-8th. We have a tremendous lineup of some of the smartest, most thoughtful people in US federal and state health care.

Also, you can join our next “Virtual Conversation” coming up this Thursday where we talk through strategies to balance cost and access of prescription drugs in Washington State. Based on our pre-call today, I think it’s going to be a very candid conversation!

 

 

 

 

With help from Emily Boerger

1. What’s the news on the budget?

Budget conversations in Olympia are kicking into high gear after the release of last week’s revenue forecast which showed a $1.34 billion increase for the 2019-21 biennium and a $1.949 billion increase for the 2021-23 biennium compared to the previous forecast. On Monday, House and Senate Democratic caucuses released their transportation budgets, outlining $10.9 billion and $11.7 billion, respectively, in spending for the next two-year budget.

During a media availability on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said Senate Democrats will release their operating and capital budgets on Thursday. He said the budgets will look to “rise to the occasion to meet the historic moment that we’re in” while also addressing issues like child care, climate issues, equity, and health care. House Democrats announced they will release their 2021-23 operating budget proposal at a virtual press conference this Friday at 3pm.


2. What the K-shaped recovery looks like

This week at our sister site, the Washington State Wire, we’re featuring a multi-media series focused on fiscal policy and the state of the COVID economy. On Monday we kicked of our coverage with a two-part series looking at Washington State’s tax regime, and trying to answer the question “Am I taxed too much?” by living in Washington.

Yesterday, we took a comparative look at Washington’s safety net for a sense of how well we make sure folks don’t fall through the cracks here during tough times. Later today at the Wire, we release a really great video of interviews of small business owners in Eastern Washington trying to navigate through the pandemic economy. This is a series we are very proud to produce, and one that I think is unique to the state.

 

3. Conversations on environmental health equity

A new interactive mapping tool from the DOH makes it easier to identify communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and more vulnerable to climate change impacts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tool shows the area surrounding SeaTac airport as having some of the highest environmental health disparities in the state.

This issue was discussed during a recent King County Board of Health meeting where presenters noted that life expectancy is 2-5 years lower for airport communities, and mothers in airport communities are 43% more likely to have a premature birth compared to the rest of King County. Conversations on environmental health inequities are also taking place at the state level where last week lawmakers held a public hearing on SB 5141 which would require certain state agencies to incorporate environmental justice plans, strategies, metrics, and principles into their work. The bill is scheduled for executive session on March 25.

 

4. Billions slated for WA in American Rescue Plan

President Biden’s signature on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will bring billions into Washington State. Funding includes $7.1 billion for Washington state, local, and tribal governments, $404 million in emergency rental assistance, and $230 million to scale up COVID testing for schools and underserved communities. The bill also expanded the Child Tax Credit, a move which Sen. Patty Murray says will cut child poverty for Black families by more than 50% and for Native families by more than 60%.

The COVID relief bill included several health policy priorities, but what will come next for health reform at the federal level? Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber recently wrote a three-part series for State of Reform offering his thoughts on universal coverage, equity, value, and moving the national health policy agenda forward administratively through 1115 and 1332 waivers.

 

5. People on the move

Amerigroup Washington has named Anthony E. Woods as the new president of its Medicaid health plan. Woods previously served as Medicaid plan president of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield of Wisconsin. Woods succeeds Craig Smith, who Amerigroup says is assuming another leadership role in the organization.

Last week Regence BlueShield announced Claire Verity would take over as its new market president. She will replace Tim Lieb, who served in the position since 2017. Prior to her new role, Verity served as CEO of UnitedHealthcare, Pacific Northwest States.