Doctors gathered in Olympia for the Washington State Medical Association’s 2014 Legislative Summit listened carefully for some key words in Gov. Jay Inslee’s address Monday, and were pleased to hear him claim some of their priorities as his own.
Among them were potential shortages of physicians and other health-care providers and how to continue increased reimbursements for primary-care doctors who see Medicaid patients — a group that has grown rapidly with the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Inslee praised Washington’s exchange insurance marketplace and the state’s effort to enroll adults in Medicaid, now called Washington Apple Health.
“But we know getting coverage is only the first step in bringing more affordable, accessible health care to everyone across our state,” he told the doctors.
Dr. Dale Reisner, president of the Washington State Medical Association, said in a statement Tuesday that the doctors were encouraged by Inslee’s “willingness to work with the health-care community to address capacity issues, such as possible physician shortages and the business challenges of seeing Medicaid patients.”
Currently, there is a six-month gap in funding the increased reimbursement beginning Jan. 1. Federal funding ends in December, while the state’s fiscal year doesn’t begin until July 2015, and the WSMA is part of a coalition lobbying lawmakers to include funding this year in a supplemental budget.
Inslee’s other subjects weren’t noted by the WSMA statement, but they included helping foster volunteer community collaboratives to integrate mental health, chemical dependency and primary medical care.
“Better health care for the whole person leads to less homelessness, more people working, and taxpayer saving,” Inslee told the doctors.
Inslee also said one of his priorities is making health-care costs more transparent and pairing the information with some data about quality — the subject of a bill now in the state Senate Rules Committee.
“If we are using competition to control costs, we need to know what prices are and what the quality is of the care being purchased,” Inslee said.
As for the WSMA, they’re also focused on finding funding for graduate medical education to encourage more physician training, getting reimbursed when they “see” patients remotely through telemedicine, and working through an awkward insurance provision in the ACA.
That provision gives patients a 90-day grace period for paying their premiums. Insurers have to pick up the first 30 days if the patient doesn’t pay, but doctors are on the hook for the bills after that. The doctors want insurers to be required to tell them about a patient’s insurance status.
Reisner said the association was also working on other issues, including whether the insurance plans offered through the state exchange have adequate numbers of doctors.