Our impact in Washington

News and perspectives on health care policy in Washington

Our impact in Washington

News and perspectives on health care policy in Washington

Kaiser Permanente serves members in Washington and supports the health of communities across more than medical offices, in Northwest Washington, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, the Coastal and Olympic regions, and Puget Sound.

We invest the time, expertise, and resources of Kaiser Permanente physicians, nurses, and thousands more clinical and nonclinical staff members, who are focused on making the lives of our members and communities healthier.

We are deeply connected to organized labor, with more than 62% of our health care professionals represented by a union. We value our relationships with Service Employees International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Office Professional Employees International Union, which play an important role in our efforts to give more people access to high-quality care and make care more affordable.

Issues

COVID-19 response

As we begin to see signs of hope for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser Permanente remains focused on expanding the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and safely providing testing, treatment, and care for patients. We are also focused on preserving care and coverage through urgent policy efforts, and helping to fortify Washington’s public health infrastructure.

Flavored tobacco

Kaiser Permanente supports swift action to ban flavored tobacco. In 2018, 1 in 4 high schoolers frequently used e-cigarettes and more than 80% of them cited appealing flavors as the primary reason. We must address this public health threat that enables underage addiction and is associated with vaping-related lung injuries. The temporary federal ban on flavored tobacco products is a step in the right direction, but it exempts certain flavors and vaping products. A comprehensive and permanent state ban is needed to protect Washington’s youth and combat the dramatic rise in youth vaping.

Market structure — self-funded versus fully insured health plans

Most Americans receive health care coverage through their employer. Employers generally choose between 2 methods of funding when they sponsor a health plan on behalf of their workforce: self-funded or fully insured.

Self-funded plans are an agreement in which the employer (or labor trust) directly takes on the financial risk of paying for its employees’ medical claims as they occur. With fully insured health plans, the employer purchases an insurance product through an insurance carrier or health plan, such as Kaiser Permanente, and the insurer or plan takes on the risk for the cost of covered care. 

Self-funded   Fully insured
The employer does not pay premiums; instead, it pays fixed costs (administrative fees and stop-loss premiums) and variable costs (employee health care claims). Payments The employer pays monthly premiums to an insurance carrier or coverage provider.
The employer assumes the risk. Assumption of risk The health plan or insurance company assumes the risk.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 generally preempts state regulations and taxation.  Compliance payments The plan must comply with state regulations and taxation. 
The federal government regulates.  Regulatory authority The state and federal governments regulate.


Self-funded plans are generally not subject to state regulations and requirements. As the largest provider of fully insured plans in Washington state, Kaiser Permanente has a much higher proportion of plans subject to state regulatory authority and state taxes and fees compared to other carriers in the state.

The Washington Market breakdown (Source: OFM Forecasting & Research Division - Health Coverage, 2017): 33% self funded - employer group directly pays health care claims expenses (private market), 23% fully insured - health insurer pays employer group's health care claims (private market), 23% Medicaid, 15% Medicare, 6% under state taxing authority.

Our impact in Washington

From caring for public employees and teachers to investing in social health factors, Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to Washington state is reflected in everything we do.

Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to the core tenets of our nonprofit status. In addition to our traditional community health investments, Kaiser Permanente has leveraged its resources to provide wide-reaching community supports throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Food security

Kaiser Permanente is funding the More Than Meals program to support several senior service organizations that provide and deliver nutritious meal assistance for seniors in Washington state. Through More Than Meals, the following agencies in King, Snohomish, Thurston, Mason, and Spokane counties will receive funding: Sound Generations, Northshore Senior Center, Homage, Senior Services for South Sound, Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels.

Vaccine research

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute launched the first-in-the-nation trial of a vaccine for COVID-19 in partnership with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Moderna, led by Lisa Jackson, MD, principal investigator of the KPWHRI Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit.

Health care staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kaiser Permanente’s chief nursing executive partnered with Public Health — Seattle & King County and assisted with the development, opening, and ongoing operations of a 140-bed COVID-19 assessment center and recovery center in Shoreline. This facility was the first of its kind in the world with a focus on providing care for homeless, sheltered, and other vulnerable populations. The 24 hours, 7 days per week staffing for this ACRC was provided by Kaiser Permanente nurses and medical assistants. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente nurses staffed the King County Isolation and Quarantine site in Issaquah and provided COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities.   

Our care

Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage health plan is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars in Washington in 2021.

In the National Committee for Quality Assurance Medicare Health Insurance Plan Ratings 2019-2020, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington are among the highest-rated Medicare HMOs in the nation, and the top-rated Medicare HMO in Washington, with ratings of 4.5 out of 5. Ratings are based on clinical quality, member satisfaction, and NCQA Accreditation Survey results.

Kaiser Permanente’s care and coverage model was rated number one overall in Washington in the 2018 eValue8 survey conducted by the Washington Health Alliance.

Our people 

2020 Best Places to Work, LGBTQ Equality

Kaiser Permanente strives to hire and support a diverse workforce. Our dedicated multispecialty group practice, the Washington Permanente Medical Group, has received a perfect score of 100% on the 2020 Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, or LGBTQ, workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.