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Universal Health Care Commission Meeting 6 Recap

Universal Health Care Commission Dips Toes into Discussing Near Term Steps to UHC at July Meeting 

This month’s UHCC recap appears courtesy of author Kelly Powers, Co-chair of the Policy Committee that focuses on the UHCC as an important part of the work by our healthcare allies in Health Care is a Human Right WA coalition. 

With each Commission meeting we are seeing more engagement from Commission members. For the first time, the meeting began to address the dual goals of 1) creating a blueprint for a universal health care system for WA state and 2) recommending immediate results for Washingtonians on the way to a unified financing system. 

Here is a round up of the Commission members discussions:

Financial Technical Advisory Committee. 

The Commissioner Members pondered the proposal for a Financial Technical Advisory Committee (FTAC) and will take it up again at the August meeting. Commission member Bidisha Mandal, Ph.D. (WSU) suggested the FTAC should begin sooner rather than later. Dr. Karen Johnson (Office of Equity) urged the FTAC to start with the vision – the end goal – and then determine the steps that could be taken to build to that goal. Kristin Peterson (DOH) wants the workforce considered from the start. We agree! It is hard to know where the steps are heading without a vision. Nicole Gomez (Healthy WA Alliance) thought the FTAC’s duties are extensive, and she proposed subcommittees within FTAC.

One overarching question:  Who will drive the overall vision of the UHC system – the Commission or the FTAC?

Short-term Steps. The HMA Consultants presented a couple of possible short-term possibilities which inspired a discussion among the Commission members. Commission members put forward ideas such as 1) aligning School Employees Benefit Board, Public Employees Benefit Board, Apple Health, and Health Benefit Exchange plans and 2) making the plans available to all levels of government (city/town/county). They also brought up electronic medical records, including one approach that might be for the Commission to choose a suitable demonstration project that will help them build the knowledge and experience to work towards a unified financing system while building the infrastructure needed.

Other Issues. The Commission members raised concerns about cost containment, including the work being done by the HCCTB, but no mention of one the biggest ways to mitigate high administration costs – adopting a unified financing system that removes the overhead of for-profit middle-men. 

Rep. Riccelli brought up addressing WA’s underinsured which makes up a sizable and growing number of the population – especially with the extended COVID Public Health Emergency declaration ending October 13, 2022. 

Having worked in a health care system without cost sharing, Chair Vicki Lowe (WA’s American Indian Health Commission) expressed her steadfast support for no cost sharing.

Rep. Schmick brought up political objections to immigrant health care. We hope the Commission considers that other countries have figured out it is not only more humane, but also cheaper to provide treatment than to create a gate-keeping bureaucracy that delays care until it is urgent and very expensive.

Mohamed Shidane (Somali Health Board) urged the Commission to create a patient-centered system that addresses improving health outcomes. This is really important because now any Commission member can drive us back to the patient-centered focus, and we can advocate for patient input at each step of the process.

At the next UHC Commission meeting on August 16th, the Commission will continue discussing the Finance Technical Advisory Committee and take up the issue of narrowing the Medicaid reimbursement rate for Washingtonians.

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