Governor Jay Inslee today signed into law several bills that continue Washington's successful push to improve quality of health care delivered in the state and reduce costs by an estimated $60 million over the next three years.
"The bills that I am signing today put us on the path to better quality health care and lower costs for us as a state," Governor Inslee said during the bill signing at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Senate Bill 6312 integrates chemical dependency treatment with care provided for people with severe mental illness, treating the whole person in a coordinated -- and more effective -- manner.
David Stone, CEO of Sound Mental Health, praised several aspects of the bill, including the financial incentives for providers to improve patient outcomes and coordination of care. "This bill represents a significant step toward the creation of an authentically integrated system of care for Washingtonians who have complex, often debilitating, medical and behavioral health needs," Stone said.
House Bill 2572 takes a bold first step for better health care purchasing by integrating mental health, community supports like housing and primary care, and by starting to build price and quality transparency tools to assist consumers and purchasers.
Deanna Davis, interim executive director of Better Health Together, a health improvement collaborative in Eastern Washington, said of the bills: "The direction of this legislation mirrors our efforts in Eastern Washington, where we have embraced an integrated and collaborative approach to improving health and health care outcomes. We recognize that complex health care challenges require the collective action of a broad group of stakeholders ranging from traditional health care players to partners in areas such as behavioral health, housing, and aging and long term care."
The Washington Health Alliance is working to create the transparency tools.
"Information is essential to health care innovation, and HB 2572 recognized that by establishing state policy for common metrics and for a price and quality data base that can be a community asset for health care," said Mary McWilliams, executive director of the Washington Health Alliance. "Once the database is expanded to include all price data, consumers, employers and labor unions will have a comprehensive and independent view of what they are buying."
Governor Inslee also signed Senate Bill 6228, which requires that health insurance companies include online price and quality information to their customers.
Dr. Frederica Overstreet, a family physician at Harborview, told the story of one patient she was able to help by treating the whole person. She connected the patient with interpretation services, social supports, mental health treatment and health care for her cervical cancer and other physical health problems.
"As a primary care doctor, I know first-hand that integrating physical health with mental health and substance abuse services is critical to healing," Overstreet said. "We need to bring together, sometimes more than one arm of behavioral health, case management and, when needed, subspecialty care. It becomes critical to treat the whole person, which often means overcoming language barriers and social isolation."
Governor Inslee noted that Harborview is "ground zero" for treating people with complex behavioral health and medical needs. He added: "Going to the ER for psychiatric care or for treatment of substance abuse issues should be a last resort, not the only option. We want to intervene early and we want to treat the whole person. That's part of moving from "sick care' to the true health care system Washingtonians deserve."