House Bill 2572, passed by the State of Washington’s House of Representatives and by the State Senate on March 13, 2014, is a law that involves implementing a more effective health care system in Washington; the language of the bill refers to it as a “state heath care innovation plan”. This new law has the specific goals of 1) improving the health of the state’s citizens by concentrating on prevention and early detection of disease; 2) establishing connections between the new health care system and the community; and 3) supporting regional collaborative efforts in certain populations, leading to better health care quality and lower costs. (HB 2572, Wash. 2014, p.1) The health care authority is responsible for coordinating, implementing, and administering all interagency efforts, as well as facilitating the cooperation of public and private organizations in implementing this health care innovation plan. However, this act also provides for, in Section 3, a “joint select committee on health care oversight.” This committee is made up of (a) the chairs of the health care committees of the House and of the Senate; (b) eight additional members of the House and the Senate, four appointed by Republicans, four by Democrats.. Finally, the Governor is required to appoint a non-voting liaison member. (HB 2572, Wash 2014, p.3)
This joint committee has a lot of responsibilities. They provide oversight to the health care authority, the health benefit exchange, the office of the insurance commissioner, the department of health, and the department of social and health services. The main purpose of this joint committee, however, is to ensure that all of these entities are working together in their specific roles rather than duplicating efforts. Increased quality of services and lower costs to the consumer are the central aim of this whole piece of legislation. (HB 2572, Wash 2014, p.3)
This legislation provides grant money will be awarded for two “pilot projects” for a “community of health”. The grant money is only to be used for start up costs, for a regionally based, voluntary collaborative. Next, grant money is provided for “health extension programs” offering training, tools, and technical assistance to health care providers – these programs must be focused on preventing chronic disease and encouraging behavioral health care that is proven to be effective. (HB 2572, Wash 2014, p. 4)
This bill also provides for a “performance measures committee”, which must make reports assimilating all of the data in order to recommend standard statewide measures of health performance, so that the public and private health care providers can track costs and improvements. This is a bit frightening because it takes the emphasis off of individual health care and focuses it on statistics to determine patients’ future treatments and the procedures that insurance do or do not decide are worth paying for. The bill states that “chronic disease management techniques that reduce the subsequent need for hospitalization or readmissions” – This subsection is included to reduce costs across all medical programs – in other words, keeping very old, and/or very ill, sick people out of the hospital is anticipated to absorb all of the other costs that are being expended elsewhere in the act. (HB 2572, Wash 2014, p.6)
In the end, all of the insurance companies and carriers are conveniently given immunity from violating state and federal antitrust laws. The rationale behind this is that all of the insurance carriers and hospitals will be working together. In conclusion, it is a great idea in theory , but greed often wins out over collaboration. (HB 2572, Wash 2014, p. 9).
- H.B. 2572, 63rd Gen. Assem. Reg. Sess. (Wash. 2014).