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Director, Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA)
Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee in January 2018, Birch oversees efforts to transform the health care system, helping ensure Washington residents have access to high-quality, affordable health care. HCA purchases care for nearly 2.7 million residents through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid), the Public Employees Benefits Board Program, and the School Employees Benefits Board Program. HCA also is responsible for the state community-based behavioral health system.
A nurse by training, Birch is passionate about improving population health and reducing overmedicalization by focusing on the social determinants of health. She has led efforts to combat the opioid public health crisis through increased access to treatment and public education, eliminate Hepatitis C through innovative value-based purchasing, and implement a Medicaid benefit for supportive housing and supported employment.
Before joining Governor Inslee’s Cabinet, Birch served as the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She led the state’s successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded coverage to more low-income Coloradans while focusing on cost containment and improved service delivery. She also has served as chief executive officer of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
Birch has completed appointments to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services and served as the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellow and the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow.
Managing member, America's Phone Guys
Ms. Cook owns and operates America’s Phone Guys in Vancouver, Washington with her husband, Caleb, who started the business in 2001. The company sells telephone equipment and VoIP phone services to other businesses in the northwest. She also serves as a member of the Business Advisory Council for the Washington State Department of Revenue and is the vice chair for the NFIB’s Washington State Leadership Council.
Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine; Director, Center for Health Workforce Studies; Deputy Director, Primary Care Innovation Lab
University of Washington
Dr. Frogner is a health economist (NIH T32 trainee) with expertise in health services delivery, health workforce, labor economics, health spending, health insurance coverage and reimbursement, and international health systems. She is the principal investigator of two Health Resources and Services Administration Health Workforce Research Center grants, one focused on allied health and another focused on the training and education of health professionals to address health equity.
In 2016, Dr. Frogner served on an Institute of Medicine Consensus Study Committee on Educating Health Professionals to Address the Social Determinants of Health. She serves on the editorial boards of Medical Care Research and Review and Health Systems. She received the 2019 John M. Eisenberg Article-of-the-Year Award as lead author of a study investigating physical therapy as the first point of care for low back pain treatment published in Health Services Research.
Dr. Frogner’s has over 100 publications including peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reports. Her research has been shared in over 200 scholarly presentations and has appeared in popular media outlets including CNN, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Vox, and Politico.
Dr. Frogner completed a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. She received her PhD in health economics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and BA at University of California, Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology.
Senior director, Global Health and Wellness, Microsoft Corporation
In her role at Microsoft, Sonja provides leadership in the design, governance, and execution of Microsoft's health and wellness plans and programs around the world. Sonja has responsibility for ensuring Microsoft's global health and wellness benefits are aligned with the overall total rewards strategy and philosophy, as well as with broader business objectives.
Sonja has over 22 years of experience in the global benefits space, previously leading Global Retirement for Microsoft. Prior to Microsoft, Sonja worked as a retirement plans record-keeper and consultant. Sonja holds the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist designation from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Qualified 401(k) Administrator designation from the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries.
Sonja grew up in South Dakota and moved to the Seattle area for college, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Speech Communication and a Business degree from the University of Washington.
Chief executive officer, Washington Health Benefit Exchange (HBE)
Prior to joining the leadership team at HBE, Pam served as executive vice president for Public Affairs and Governance for Group Health Cooperative. She directed Medicare and Medicaid program performance and strategy, government relations, public policy, communications, and consumer governance, serving on Group Health’s leadership team for 16 years.
Previously, Pam served as a commissioner with the Washington Health Services Commission implementing the Health Services Act. She worked with a broad coalition to pass health reform legislation. Pam has served on several health policy initiatives in the public and private sector, chairing the Association of Washington Health Plans, serving on the Washington State Hospital policy committee, the King County Health Action Plan, and the Children’s Health Initiative. She holds an MAT in history from Brown University and a BA in economics from The Evergreen State College.
Deputy commissioner, Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC)
Molly Nollette works in the Rates, Forms, and Provider Networks division, serving Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. She joined OIC in 2010 to work on the newly passed Affordable Care Act and was appointed to her current position in 2013. Molly and her team are responsible for ensuring that Health and Disability, Property and Casualty, and Life and Annuities insurance plans sold in Washington comply with state and federal law and regulations.
As deputy commissioner, she is active in advancing and implementing the commissioner’s policy and legislative agenda, including representing him at multiple national and state forums, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Washington State Insurance Pool Board.
Prior to joining the OIC, Molly worked at Starbucks Coffee Company, where she led a shared services team that supported a global department focused on employee and customer safety and security. As a native Washingtonian, she is an avid gardener and optimistically plants tomatoes every spring. She loves working in public service, and particularly in support of access to affordable and meaningful health care for all. Molly was awarded a B.A. from Reed College and J.D. from Tulane University School of Law.
Margaret Stanley has served in executive positions in health care in both the public and private sectors. She was the first administrator of the Washington State Health Care Authority and served as vice chair of the Washington Health Care Commission and Chair of the Public Employees Benefits Board. She later chaired the Washington State Health Benefits Exchange Board.
Ms. Stanley also served as the executive director of the Puget Sound Health Alliance, now the Washington Health Alliance. She has held executive positions at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Group Health Cooperative, Premera Blue Cross, and Regence BlueShield. She has served on many health care boards. She has a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Washington.
Medical administrator, Office of the Medical Director, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
Over the past 25 years, Kim has held numerous public and private sector leadership positions in health care policy and finance, health IT, health benefits management, and public health. She has an MBA from Wharton and a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics from the University of Washington.
Director, Member Pooling Programs, Association of Washington Cities (AWC)
Carol Wilmes oversees AWC’s Employee Benefit Trust, Risk Management Service Agency, Workers’ Comp Retrospective Rating Program, and Drug & Alcohol Consortium. For most of her 38 years with the AWC, Carol administered the Employee Benefit Trust, insuring 36,000 members from over 280 municipalities and special purpose districts. She serves as a resource for labor-management task forces addressing the complexities of health care coverage, and frequently speaks at the state and national level on governmental entity health pools and public sector risk management trends.
She was appointed to the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange Advisory Committee in 2015; serves as chair to the Board of Directors to the National League of Cities Risk Insurance Sharing Consortium; and serves on the Washington Health Alliance Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
Research associate professor, Department of Health Services, University of Washington
Dr. Edwin Wong works at the University of Washington and is a core investigator at the Center for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care within the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Dr. Wong is a health economist and health services researcher with a diverse portfolio of federally funded research.
His work applies big data analytics to address questions in four key areas:
- Understanding economic and policy factors influencing healthcare utilization and costs.
- Examining the economic implications of large-scale health system interventions.
- Assessing the economic burden of chronic disease.
- Developing novel methods applications to improve measurement of health system performance.
Dr. Wong also serves as a mentor to numerous graduate students, and postdoctoral and clinical fellows. He received his BS in Computer Science from Texas Christian University, and his MA and PhD in economics from the University of Washington.
Director, Health Plan Performance and Strategy, SEIU 775 Benefits Group
Kate Zaichkin (she/her) works for SEIU 775 Benefits Group, an organization dedicated to improving the skills, health, and stability of the state’s caregiving workforce. As deputy director of the Benefits Group’s Health Benefits Trust, Laura Kate leads health purchasing strategy and manages the performance of contracted carriers and vendors serving nearly 52,000 long-term home caregivers receiving safety and wellness benefits, and the 23,000 caregivers enrolled in the health plan.
Laura Kate brings a decade of experience in health policy, reform, and health systems transformation. Her past roles include serving as the deputy chief policy officer for the Washington State Health Care Authority and convening a public-private partnership of national health care entities to help implement the Affordable Care Act at the National Quality Forum in Washington, DC.
President, Bailit Health
Michael founded Bailit Health in 1997 and has since worked with a wide array of state agencies and employer-purchasing coalitions in over 30 states. Michael's professional interests focus on how purchasers and regulators can influence health care markets to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. Michael has worked with clients on payment and delivery system reform, including ACO, Medical Home and episode-based payment strategy design and implementation, performance measurement, value-based purchasing, and multi-stakeholder change process guidance and facilitation. Since 2018, he has worked with Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon, and Rhode Island to design and implement cost growth target strategies.
Prior to founding Bailit Health, Michael served as the assistant commissioner for Benefit Plans in the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance, the state Medicaid agency. His responsibilities included the management of all of the division's benefit plans, including the HMO, behavioral health, primary care case management, and senior care programs. Also while with Massachusetts, Michael founded the Massachusetts Healthcare Purchaser Group and served as its chairman and president.
Previously, Michael worked for Digital Equipment Corporation and was engaged in health and welfare benefit planning and management activities for Digital's 60,000 U.S. employees. Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and earned an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Program officer, Milbank Memorial Fund
Rachel Block is a program officer at the Milbank Memorial Fund where she focuses on a variety of state health policy issues. She has previously served in numerous executive roles in the public and private sectors, including spearheading development of New York state’s health information technology strategy as deputy commissioner for Health Information Technology Transformation in the New York State Department of Health, and as the founding executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative.
Ms. Block has also worked at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where she held several senior management positions directing policy development and operations for Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance, and federal survey and certification programs. She was the founding executive director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and had senior health policy staff roles in the New York State Legislature.
Senior consultant, Bailit Health
January has over 20 years of experience in health care policy and management. Her expertise includes legislative and policy analysis, program development and implementation, and program management and evaluation, with an emphasis on publicly–financed health care. January’s current work focuses on helping states establish health care cost growth target programs, working with Connecticut and Washington on developing the target methodology and assessing performance against the target. She also works with states to leverage procurement and contract oversight processes to strengthen their Medicaid managed care programs.
Most recently, she assisted North Dakota on its Medicaid managed care procurement for expansion adults. January’s past work at Bailit Health includes providing technical assistance to Mississippi and New Jersey on strategies to implement value-based payments in their Medicaid managed care contracts and facilitating a work group to advise the Rhode Island on future telemedicine policies.
Prior to joining Bailit Health, January served as deputy Medicaid director for Managed Care and Oversight and as CHIP director for Rhode Island. She led cross–functional teams responsible for managed care contracting, delivery system reform, policy and regulatory compliance, data analytics, and program integrity. Her accomplishments include spearheading the successful renewal of Rhode Island's Section 1115 waiver, developing, and implementing processes and measures for better oversight of the Medicaid program’s contracted health, dental and transportation programs, and directing the Accountable Entities program's transition from pilot to implementation phase. Her Rhode Island state work also included serving as interagency operations manager for HealthSource RI, the state's health insurance exchange. In this role, January facilitated coverage for thousands of Rhode Island residents by strengthening Medicaid and HealthSource RI's eligibility policy and operations.
Before working for the state of Rhode Island, January was a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where she worked on Affordable Care Act legislation and implementation, with a focus on expanding Medicaid, implementing the premium tax credits, and coordinating eligibility for health and human services programs. January's other health policy experience includes working at the Center for Health Care Strategies, American Institutes for Research, and Mathematica Policy Research.
January earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Oberlin College, and a Master of Public Policy Degree from the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.