Spokane's Uninsured Population Is Dropping Dramatically

Check out the following article from our friends at the Community Indicators Initiative about the Spokane uninsured population dropping dramatically. EHF's own Brian Myers weighs in on the conversation with expert insight!


Washington’s Cancer Research Fund Selects Spokane’s Empire Health Foundation As Program Administrator for New Public-Private Partnership

CARE Fund’s First RFP to Bring Top Cancer Researchers to State Coming This Summer

The Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund, a new public-private partnership that supports cancer research in Washington, has selected Empire Health Foundation (EHF) in Spokane to serve as its Program Administrator. EHF will be responsible for administering grants to fund cancer research that utilizes the best science with the greatest potential to improve health outcomes for Washingtonians.    

“We are excited to have Empire Health Foundation as a partner in this new approach to supporting cancer research in Washington state,” said Dr. Frederick Appelbaum, chair of the CARE Board and executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “The CARE Fund will leverage our state’s existing cancer research organizations and talent to advance cancer care in Washington. With new investments, we are going to recruit top researchers from all over the world to bring their best-in-class talent to Washington and set the stage for new collaborations that can generate the next big discovery in cancer research.”

“Empire Health Foundation is deeply committed to the CARE Fund’s goals and is eager to launch and scale this important initiative for our state,” said Antony Chiang, president of Empire Health Foundation. “Washington has world-class, innovative cancer research happening across the state, and the CARE Fund will provide critical support to push those efforts even further.”

The CARE Fund was seeded with $5 million in public funding in the 2015-17 budget. The Legislature is authorized to provide up to $10 million per year in public funding for 10 years, and all public funding must be matched by private or other non-state resources. 

The Board recently adopted an initial strategic plan to focus on two priority areas:

  • Distinguished Researchers. The CARE Fund will match up to $500,000 to fund recruitment packages that bring leading cancer researchers to cancer research institutions in Washington.
  • Breakthrough Fund. The Breakthrough Fund will provide grants up to $750,000 in the first year to partnerships or collaborations solving a critical problem or trying to achieve a transformational breakthrough.

A request for proposals for the Distinguished Researchers program will be released this summer. Proposals for the Breakthrough Fund will be solicited and evaluated later this year. 

As part of its work as Program Administrator, EHF will work with expert scientific review panels to provide independent evaluation of grant applications. Only grants recommended by the review panels can be awarded by the CARE Board.

CARE is created and defined by statute (RCW 43.348), wherein the Legislature and Governor recognized that “Washington has an existing infrastructure of world-class cancer research and care centers for children and adults that can develop and apply new techniques for the prevention of cancer and care of cancer patients throughout the state.” Lawmakers further found that “sustained investment in cancer research, prevention, and care is critical to reducing long-term health costs, saving lives, and relieving pain and suffering.” CARE is intended to provide additional public resources dedicated exclusively to cancer research.

The CARE Board, appointed by the Governor, includes Elaine Albert (Seattle Children’s Hospital), Leslie Alexandre (Life Science Washington), Frederick Appelbaum (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), Thomas Brown (Swedish Cancer Institute), David Byrd (University of Washington Medicine), Weihang Chai (Washington State University), Carol Dahl (The Lemelson Foundation), Steven Harr (Juno Therapeutics), James Hendricks (Seattle Children’s Research Institute), Eunice Hostetter (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network), and Jennifer Kampsula Wong (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network). 

The CARE Board first met in October 2016 to discuss priorities for cancer research funding and to begin mapping out a strategic funding plan; adopted its initial strategic plan in February 2017; issued the Program Administrator RFP in April 2017; and selected EHF after a competitive bidding process. The Department of Commerce finalized the contract with EHF for that role earlier this month.

Empire Health Foundation (www.empirehealthfoundation.org) is a private health conversion foundation formed in 2008 through the sale of Deaconess and Valley Medical, a nonprofit hospital system in Spokane.  Stewarding philanthropic assets totaling approximately $80 million, EHF invests in ideas and organizations that improve access, education, research and policy to result in a measurably healthier region.



CARE Fund:        

Thomas Bates



Empire Health Foundation:

Sarah Lyman



Public-Private Partnerships to Improve Health Outcomes

Over the last 5 years EHF has been engaging with a group of public and private funders, led by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (within HRSA). EHF was able to participate in an aligned funding effort to support high risk, rural older adults through care coordination at 4 sites in 3 counties. The fun, and challenging, part of this project has been bringing in Molina from the beginning to build this on the health home platform for sustainability. The link below features a couple of the public-private partnerships including this one. 

As a side note, earlier this month was our annual meeting. It was the largest one yet, with over 100 participants from about 70 organizations. The good news is the group keeps meeting in the current administration (it was an Obama White House initiative in the beginning). The bad news is the next potential aligned funding opportunity might not be until 2020. 


EHF files suit against CHS over failing to meet charity care promises

From the Spokesman Review, by Becky Kramer

Deaconess and Valley hospitals’ for-profit owner failed to provide up to $110 million worth of charity care promised to low-income patients during its tenure in Spokane, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

Empire Health Foundation filed the suit against Community Health Systems of Tennessee, one of the nation’s larger for-profit hospital chains, which purchased Deaconess and Valley hospitals in 2008.

As part of the purchase, Community Health Systems agreed to meet or exceed the average hospital charity care spending in Eastern Washington, the suit said.

But an analysis of the hospitals’ charity spending reports to the Washington Department of Health indicated that CHS fell at least $55 million short, the suit said. The litigation also accuses CHS of inflating the cost of the charity care it did provide, which could put the shortfall as high as $110 million.

CHS is on the verge of selling both hospitals and leaving the Spokane market.

Empire Health Foundation wanted to file the lawsuit before the sale of the two hospitals is finalized on June 30, said Antony Chiang, Empire Health Foundation president.

Chiang had strong words for CHS during an interview Monday: “You can’t just leave, go back to Tennessee and walk away with these unearned profits.”

In the Spokane area, the failure to provide $110 million worth of health care “had to have significant impacts” to the most vulnerable patients, Chiang said.

CHS officials in Tennessee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Washington, people who earn less than 200 percent of the poverty level qualify for charity care. Under state law, hospitals cannot refuse to provide treatment based on ability to pay.

Empire Health Foundation’s mission is to improve the health of the region’s population. The foundation was formed with the proceeds of CHS’s purchase of the two hospitals.

Empire Health Foundation also was tasked with overseeing the contracts from the sale.

“Anecdotally, we’d heard that CHS was not meeting its commitments to charity care,” Chiang said. “There were persistent grumblings that ERs at Deaconess and Valley hospitals were seeing less charity cases and Providence ERs were seeing more.”

When MultiCare Health System of Tacoma announced its intent to purchase the two hospitals as part of a $425 million deal that also includes Rockwood Clinic, Empire Health hired a health care economist to research CHS’s charity care spending.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane. It won’t affect MultiCare’s purchase of Deaconess and Valley hospitals, which Empire Health Foundation supports.

MultiCare is a nonprofit health system with a good track record of providing charity care in the communities where it operates, said Gary Stokes, chairman of the Empire Health Foundation board and KSPS Public Television’s president and general manager.