State of Reform: Industry leaders say health care’s problems will require bold solutions

By Regence
January 13, 2023
Washington State of Reform 2023

(From left) Andrew Over, regional market vice president of Regence BlueShield; Katherine Mahoney, government affairs director at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health; Lynnette Vehrs, president of the Washington State Nurses Association; and Sam Hatzenbeler, senior policy associate at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Health care costs are unsustainable, the health care workforce is struggling and social determinants of health continue to lead to health disparities for underserved communities. At the Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference this month, industry leaders faced the biggest issues facing health care and explored how to make things better.

“We are in Seattle where everyone tries to play nice – play nice in the sandbox, be friendly. Everyone needs to be a little bit less of that. We need to be a little more intentional. We need to be…a bit bolder,” said Dr. Drew Oliveira, executive director of the Washington Health Alliance, in his keynote conversation with Sue Birch, director of the Washington State Health Care Authority.

In a panel on affordability and transparency, Bill Kramer, executive director of health policy at Purchasers Business Group on Health, said health care system consolidation has given health systems more market power and ability to increase the price of care.

“The reason prices have continued to go up is because the structure of the industry has changed over the last 10 to 20 years,” Kramer said. “Particularly if you look at industry consolidation.”

Aimee Viles, vice president of digital for Regence BlueShield, and Andrew Over, regional market vice president for Regence BlueShield, took part in panels on health care technology and health care workforce challenges, respectively.

Viles said that Regence embarked on a first-in-the nation project with MultiCare Connected Care to make the pre-authorization process faster and more convenient “so providers can focus on caring for their patients instead of the business of managing care.”

Over cited a Puget Sound Business Journal-Regence survey last year that showed burnout among Seattle-area employees across industries has skyrocketed, with women more likely than men to report being burned out. “It’s a stark reminder of the significant challenges that employees are facing right now,” he said.

Watch this video for additional highlights of this month’s Washington State of Reform conference.