Opinion: Meeting notes Tweeted — errr, X’d

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center provides highlights from the Washington State Board of Health Nov. 8 meeting.

Elizabeth Hovde points out that when it comes to long-term-care people aren’t clamoring to get in; they are clamoring to get out

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

I follow various meetings, including meetings of the  Washington State Board of Health, which had one today, Nov. 8, the state’s Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Commission, which oversees WA Cares and which had a meeting Nov. 7, and the state’s Universal Health Care Commission (yes, there really is one), which has a meeting coming up on Dec. 14. The meetings are usually monthly.

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

Sometimes I write articles about the meetings. Sometimes I don’t. I almost always Tweet/X while watching them, however. Feel free to policy-wonk out with me on @WPCElizabeth on meeting days or visit my feed to get some highlights from the meetings. 

Here are some key moments from yesterday and today: 

Nov. 7 LTSS Trust Commission meeting

— I have to start with this one: A commission member asks if there is an update on how many self-employed people applied to opt in to WA Cares. The answer? 517.  By contrast, tens of thousands of people are still opting out, given their ability to because of their military or out-of-state-resident status, adding to the nearly 500,000 who opted out of WA Cares when they could in 2021 because they had or obtained a private long-term-care insurance plan. 

The takeaway for me? People aren’t clamoring to get in; they are clamoring to get out. 

— The commission went over recommendations to the Legislature that it already voted on and approved in September: One is asking the Legislature to tweak the law to allow for limited portability of the benefit for people who are vested in the fund but move out of state. That recommendation comes with various cost offsets to add the portability option. Limitations include requiring people to have paid taxes for a number of years in state to be eligible for any portability option, placing the reporting burden on individuals to keep any benefit, and raising the number of hours that qualify people for a year of having paid taxes into WA Cares from 500 to 1,000. This is for all workers, not just those seeking portability.

— The commission will also recommend the Legislature allow people here on non-immigrant visas to be automatically exempt. (Not because it is the right thing to do, mind you, but because it would ease a heavy administrative burden on the state.) Other exempt-possible groups would still only be afforded “voluntary exemptions.”

— The commission discussed possible voluntary exemptions for military members who also have civilian jobs in the state. 

— The recommendations for minimum provider qualifications in WA Cares are still in process.

— On Dec. 12, the commission will approve the final recommendations report that has been compiled and send it to the Legislature. It also will receive a financial update.

 — An Agency Administrative Expenses Report was voted on, is approved and will be submitted to the Legislature.

Nov. 8 State Board of Health meeting

— Public commenters continue to be upset that the state Department of Health (DOH) continues to promote COVID-19 vaccination for all ages. One expressed concern that verbiage on state websites is off target and says his repeated concerns go ignored. 

— DOH is there and goes over the top 10 “leading causes of death” in 2022: The top of the chart has the usual stuff, and for those curious, COVID-19 is listed as number seven. Suicide is listed at number 10.

— DOH says less than 10% of Washingtonians are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, and the department wants a higher number. It reminds of other safety precautions, like handwashing. The key takeaway, DOH says, is that advancing public health requires all of us to work together. DOH advises people to get the most up-to-date vaccines, for the flu and COVID, before the holidays. DOH says Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) data that people are concerned with should be viewed carefully. DOH says when it is, the agency believes the vaccine is safe and effective. 

— Large increases for health spending were cheered. State funding for Foundational Public Health has grown considerably, from a one-time, $6 million investment in 2018 to an ongoing, annual investment of $162 million in 2024, we’re told.

— DOH laid out some ways Washington state health is moving forward, including resources and efforts toward “transformational,” behavioral” and “digital” health,” investments in workforce, “climate and health,” “social drivers of health,” “healthcare delivery/access to care” and “respiratory season response.” (I’d argue the state’s Universal Health Care Commission (UHCC)  is working against some of this forward motion. The pattern of government-run, taxpayer-funded care, which the UHCC is aiming toward, is the rationing of care, waiting lists and health care for some, not all.)

— A legislative statement update is given. Part of that has SBOH seeking better data sharing and more attention to maternal health, among other things. A marked-up version of the statement will be circulated for the board to look over and approval will be asked for in the start of 2024.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.

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