A look back at 2020 accomplishments gives hope for the future

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A photo of a broze statue of a girl holding a water lily and wearing a mask.

We are emerging from one of the most unusual years in our lifetime. It was a difficult year for many of us. We thank our employees for their resiliency and continuing to support those we serve even as we work remotely. We also are grateful for our partners and sister agencies, and community health organizations that stepped forward to help those who need it most.

Here’s a look back at just some of what the Health Care Authority accomplished in 2020.

Apple Health clients exceed 2 million

The work we do impacts real people every day. We topped 2 million Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) clients for the first time. It was clear the pandemic and resulting economic fallout made access to free- or low-cost health care more important than ever.

This past year, we heard from many Washington residents, including:

A toddler and a newborn hug each other.

Angela Mendoza of Auburn, who enrolled in Apple Health and was able to catch her daughter up on immunizations at her well-child checkup and let Angela go to the midwife and birthing center of her choice for her second child.

 

Blonde woman with glasses stands in front of a river in eastern Washington.

Ronni Batchelor, a mother of six in Kennewick, who became homeless with a 1-year-old son when she lost her income due to a work-related injury. Apple Health provided her the health care she needed, and Ronni’s personal experience inspired her to help others access health care coverage. Today, she applies her experiences as a community health worker and certified crisis counselor at her local Accountable Community of Health (ACH).

 

Man with a white beard in front of a green park background.

Frank Sikorski of Vancouver who lost his job in February 2020. His doctor told him about Apple Health. Frank told us, “Apple Health was absolutely a key player in getting me back on the right track to finding a job and getting my life back in order. They filled a huge void over my concern of how to medically cover my family during this very tough time. Apple Health was there when I most needed them and I will be forever grateful for their help.”

Hearing stories about how we have helped Washingtonians gain access to health care gives us purpose in our everyday work. Thank you, Angela, Ronni and Frank for sharing your stories with us.

Other major achievements from 2020:

Responding to the pandemic

Health workers standing 6 feet apart wearing masks in front of numerous boxes of personal protective equipment.

  • Providing free laptops and cell phones to clients and providers to aid in telehealth access, and keep families in touch during quarantine.
  • Access to free Zoom licenses for providers to conduct telehealth visits securely.
  • Securing 4.4 million pieces of personal protection equipment (PPE) for local communities and providers, with the support of local Accountable Communities of Health for distribution.
  • Supplemental payments to a variety of providers and rural hospitals.
  • Special open enrollment for PEBB and SEBB program members.
  • Behavioral health supports — provider webinars, and standing up the Washington Listens helpline.
  • Partnering in statewide COVID-19 public awareness campaigns, including reminders for well-child visits and Spread the Facts.
  • Supported Employment Services, Department of Social and Health Services, and Health Benefit Exchange in customer service calls.
  • Mental health support for HCA employees with bolstered virtual wellness programs and employee assistance program.

Supporting Washington residents in access to quality care

  • Launched Cascade Care, the nation’s first public option offering, in collaboration with the Health Benefit Exchange.
  • Launched the COFA Islander Dental Program.
  • Conducted annual PEBB and SEBB open enrollments entirely virtually, including a virtual benefits fair.
  • Added two Medicare plan options for PEBB members.
  • Expanded access for Apple Health by adding more managed care options:
  • Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) — North Central and Pierce regions
  • Coordinated Care of Washington (CCW) — Southwest region

Ensuring we move from volume to value

Graphic showing quality as the largest goal, experience as secondary, and cost as third objective of value-based care.

  • For calendar year 2019, our goal was to have 75 percent of payments across all Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) and Medicaid managed care programs in a value-based purchasing (VBP) arrangement. Although Washington State did not reach this goal, we achieved 59 percent.
  •  We continue driving VBP adoption through multi-sector, system-wide collaboration — ensuring equitable care and care that focuses on the whole person and supports healthier and engaged communities.
  •  Reached agreement with payers and providers on a proposed Multi-payer Primary Care Transformation Model. Primary care is the foundation of our health care system — it is essential to better health outcomes, lower costs, and healthier families and communities. The Multi-payer Primary Care Transformation Model will serve as a framework that helps strengthen primary care through multi-payer payment reform and care delivery transformation. The purpose of the model is to create better health and better care for patients, smarter spending, and improved clinical experience for providers.

Medicaid Transformation Project

  •  We continued our Medicaid transformation project work, and applied to extend the 1115 waiver one year due to the pandemic.
  •  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved an amendment to our state’s Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waiver, creating a fifth initiative under MTP. This allows us to use federal funds to treat Medicaid clients receiving psychiatric care while residing in certain facilities. The initiative will increase access to care and provide more coordinated and comprehensive treatment for people who receive psychiatric care.

Health equity and social justice

Diverse nursing staff providing vaccines.

  • Recruiting for a health equity manager to ensure we are providing equal access to care.
  • Surveyed HCA employees to learn more about equity needs and hear their perspectives.
  • Created a draft health equity strategy.

Collaboration and work groups

  • We continued the important conversations about ensuring access to improved behavioral health services and strategies through the Children’s Mental Health task force
  • We convened the Universal Health Care Work Group for continued conversations about how to create, implement, maintain and fund a universal health care system, and delivered a final report with recommendations to the Legislature.

We can look forward to 2021

A rainbow shines over Puget Sound in Olympia, WA. The capitol building is in the foreground.

Looking ahead to 2021, we will continue to respond to the pandemic, and focus on helping ensure access to health care across the state. Our scientists and public health leaders have created and are distributing a vaccine in record time, and we are hopeful the new federal administration will build upon efforts to ensure access to quality care for all residents.

Some of HCA’s key focuses in 2021 will include:

  • Continue primary care work.
  • Support COVID-19 vaccine mobilization.
  • Rural health care transformation.
  • Stand up Health Care Cost Transparency Board.

We look forward to working with our clients, partners and community members to make 2021 a great year.