Archive for Healthcare

Tuesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | February 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here’s our 15-minute recap of Tuesday’s legislative activities on “Legislative Review.” We have highlights from the debate over a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons. Plus, a measure that would allow people with PTSD to use medical marijuana, and a bill that would allow fathers to terminate legal responsibilities for a child that he can prove through DNA does not belong to him.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11.


Categories: Healthcare, TVW

Vaccines debated as lawmakers consider eliminating personal belief exemption

By | February 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

A House committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a bill that would end a parent’s ability to exempt a child from vaccines for personal or philosophical reasons.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she introduced House Bill 2009 in response to the recent measles outbreak. “These are diseases that were eradicated and are now coming back largely due to the fact that people are choosing to not immunize their children,” she said.

Children in Washington must be vaccinated for school unless they are exempted for medical, religious or personal reasons. Last year, 3.6 percent of school-age children were exempted from vaccinations for non-medical reasons.

Some Washington schools have exemption rates as high 40 percent, said Kathy Lofy of the state Dept. of Health. She worries those schools will serve as “tinderboxes” for diseases that are easily spread through crowds.

Kathy Hennessy of Bellingham said her child caught pertussis from an unvaccinated classmate in preschool. “I’m frustrated that so many people are choosing not vaccinate their children based on misinformation and pseudoscience,” she told legislators.

More than a dozen opponents testified Tuesday, asking lawmakers to keep the personal exemption in place.

Grant Keller said the people who oppose vaccinations are “not conspiracy theorists,” but often well-educated parents with high incomes. “They are capable of reading and digesting scientific information, and they are making informed decisions regarding the health of their children,” he said.

Other parents who testified say they are not immunizing their children because they worry about a negative reaction to the vaccine.

Josh Swenson said drug allergies and sensitivies run in his family, and he worries how vaccines could affect his children. “I’m not wiling to sacrifice my children’s health and future for the good of all,” he said.

If the bill passes, Swenson said his only choices would be to take his children out of public schools or move out of state. “You cannot force me to hurt my child,” he said.

Proposal would amend state’s Death with Dignity Act

By | February 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

Doctors would be required to discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments with terminally ill patients when they seek medically-assisted suicide, if a state Senate bill passes.

Voters passed Washington’s Death with Dignity Act in 2008. Since then, patients with less than six months to live are able to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Now, Sen. Jan Angel is sponsoring a bill to make the first change to the initiative. Current state law requires doctors to discuss pain control, comfort and hospice care when patients request life-ending medicine. Senate Bill 5919 would also require doctors discuss possible cures and life-extending treatments.

It’s a small change – not even a full sentence – but both supporters and critics say it makes a big difference.

Terminal patients need to know about every possible option, Angel told a Senate committee Thursday. “Doctors can be wrong,” the Port Orchard Republican said. “There can be mistakes, there can be new cures. There is hope.”

Dr. Kenneth Stevens says he’s seen patients live for years beyond what other doctors tell them to expect. The Oregon doctor, who testified remotely, is part of Physicians for Compassionate Care, an organization that opposes Washington’s law and others like it. “Life expectancies aren’t exact,” he said.

But critics say the bill would complicate an already-tough process.

Arline Hinckley works with Compassion and Choices, a Seattle-based end-of-life resource center. Death with Dignity, she says, is already used “rarely and cautiously.” Of the 51,000 statewide deaths in 2013, she says 119 were medically-assisted.

Doctors often overstate life expectancy, Hinckley said, and some patients already wait too long to start the process. “To raise the issue of cure is unfair to patient, who is already accepted the fact that they’re terminal,” she said.

No action was taken during Thursday’s hearing.

Categories: Healthcare, initiatives

WSU, UW propose fixes to doctor shortage

By | January 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state’s top two universities have different ideas about how to train more doctors, but both agree: Washington State University can establish and operate a new medical school if it’s not at the expense of the existing University of Washington program.

Washington faces a dire shortage of primary care providers, particularly in underserved rural communities on the eastern side of the state. The state’s only medical school struggles to train enough doctors with only enough funding to admit 140 students to study within the state each year.

Both universities have different proposals to improve healthcare access. WSU wants funding to hire staff and secure accreditation for a new school while UW wants to expand an existing program to accommodate more students. Spokane lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow both.

The University of Washington has since 1917 had exclusive rights to operate a medical school in the state. Now, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli have introduced joint bills to remove the restriction and allow WSU to create its own program on the other side of the mountains. The bill also removes UW’s sole rights to medicine, forestry products and logging engineering majors.

UW doesn’t mind giving up its exclusive rights, but worries about the financial impact for its existing program, spokesperson Genesee Adkins said. WSU last year announced it was withdrawing from WWAMI, a doctor training program operated in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. WWAMI trains doctors for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. It’s an acronym for the first letter of each state.

In 2013, WSU accepted nearly $6 million in state money to help support existing students at the Spokane branch of the WWAMI program. Now, WSU plans to reallocate the funding to pay for its own program.

Adkins says UW does not want the money reallocated. “Do not explore this one concept at the expense of another,” she told the House Higher Education committee on Tuesday.

UW wants $8 million to expand the WWAMI program in order accommodate 80 students in Spokane per year by 2017. “The need for expansion of medical professions is absolutely clear and we recognize that need,” University of Washington President Michael K. Young told lawmakers on Thursday. “Our program is scalable.”

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd says the two programs don’t have to be mutually-exclusive. “We are not duplicating what already exists,” Floyd said. “The teaching model at the University of Washington can continue. It is our hope and desire that it would be augmented.”

WSU wants $2.5 million to launch a community-based medical school, using partnerships with medical facilities instead of building its own research hospital. Michigan State and Florida State universities – as well as UW – use similar models.

The university hopes to welcome its first class of 40 students by 2017 and grow to accommodate 120 by 2021.

House Bill 1559, which only removes the restriction and doesn’t provide funding for either program, has more than 60 bipartisan sponsors signed on. The bill needs only a simple majority to pass the chamber of 98 lawmakers. Senate Bill 5487 is a companion.

Categories: Education, Healthcare

Hospital pushes for ER service tax on concert tickets sold at Gorge Amphitheatre

By | January 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Update: Grant County Commissioner Richard Stevens on Wednesday told TVW he “questions the need” for an admissions tax to pay for emergency services during concerts and wants to handle the matter on a local level. If passed, the bill would require a vote from Grant County to impose the surcharge.

A Grant County hospital wants the Gorge Amphitheatre to charge concert-goers more to pay for emergency medical care. Staffing costs and unpaid medical bills, they say, are a burden for nearby healthcare providers.

Concert-goers at the Gorge could pay more for emergency medical services.

Quincy Valley Medical Care says it lost more than $500,000 during concerts in 2013. One in particular – the Gorge’s Paradiso Festival – forced the hospital to convert its three-bed emergency room to support 120 patients in one weekend.

More than 25,000 people went to two-day electronic music festival that year. One person died from methamphetamine overdose. Hospital officials say many patients were suffering from drug and alcohol abuse during the weekend with temperatures nearing 100 degrees.

Senate Bill 5000, sponsored by Wenatchee Republican Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, would add a $1 admissions tax to Gorge Amphitheatre tickets to pay for emergency services at this annual festival and other events.

Gorge general manager Danny Wilde told a Senate operations committee on Monday the surcharge would discourage ticket sales and could keep acts from performing. “Artists are a fickle bunch,” he said. “There’s potential for an artist to say ‘we don’t want to be there, you are penalizing our fans’.”

The amphitheater’s 380,000 annual customers generate $56 million in revenue for local businesses and $4.6 million in state and local taxes, a spokesperson for Gorge operator Live Nation said. That revenue may not be possible with a surcharge, Wilde said.

Mehdi Merred, superintendent of the Quincy hospital, told lawmakers the facility cannot afford the additional costs to expand its emergency room and hire additional staff during concerts without the surcharge.

Gorge operators, he said, don’t do enough to prevent the drug and alcohol use that sends concert-goers to nearby emergency rooms. “Do I feel like the infrastructure at the Gorge enables behaviors? Absolutely,” Merred told committee members.

The Grant County Commissioner’s Office does not support the admissions tax, according to a letter read during Monday’s hearing. “It’s strange to me to pass a bill out of (committee) … knowing the only people it would affect in the entire state of Washington would turn it down,” Sen. Brian Dansel said.

Both Senate Bill 5000 and companion House Bill 1009 await further committee action.

This story has been updated to include comment from the Grant County Commissioner.

Categories: Alcohol, Healthcare

Seahawks’ Wilson, Sherman in new health exchange PSA

By | January 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Seattle Seahawks are encouraging people to sign up for health insurance through the state exchange.

NFC Championship-bound team’s Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman volunteered to help spread the word in a new Washington Healthplanfinder public service announcement. “Too many Washingtonians are living without insurance,” Wilson said.

The deadline to apply for health insurance through the state exchange is Feb. 15 for coverage that begins March 1. Apply by Jan. 23 for coverage beginning Feb. 1.

Categories: Healthcare, The Impact

Live from the Capitol: TVW’s opening day show starts 10 a.m. Monday

By | January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature’s 2015 session begins Monday, Jan. 12. Opening ceremonies start at noon, but tune in to TVW early to catch exclusive interviews with lawmakers, who will discuss key issues for the coming months.

Starting at 10 a.m., The Impact’s Anita Kissee will host the live show from the Capitol rotunda. Gov. Jay Inslee will stop by to talk about his budget proposal and more.

Guests include House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Sharon Nelson, Mark Schoesler, Andy Billig, Linda Evans Parlette and Representatives Dan Kristiansen, Pat Sullivan, Joel Kretz and Eric Pettigrew.

Hear about key issues including education, transportation and mental health from Senators Jeannie Darneille, Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Steve Litzow, Rosemary McAuliffe, John McCoy and Steve O’Ban, plus Representatives Judy Clibborn, Hans Dunshee, Richard DeBolt, Cary Condotta and Sharon Wylie.

We’ll also get insight about the session from Capitol reporters Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review and Jordan Schrader from The News Tribune.

TVW will carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of opening ceremonies beginning at noon.

Stay tuned to TVW throughout the session for coverage of the state Legislature. Starting opening day of session, Legislative Review will air nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. “The Impact” airs Wednesdays at 7 and 10 p.m. and Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins is Thursdays at 7 and 10 p.m.

Health department investigating cluster of birth defects in Eastern Washington

By | May 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

The state Department of Health is investigating more than two dozen cases of babies born with a rare birth defect in a three-county area in Eastern Washington.

From 2010 to 2013, there were 23 babies were born with anencephaly in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties — roughly four times the national average. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect in which the baby’s brain and skull do not fully form during the first month of pregnancy. Babies with the defect often die shortly after birth.

Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the Dept. of Health, spoke with Jennifer Huntley of “The Impact” about the ongoing investigation, and whether or not there is a link to the nearby Hanford nuclear site in Benton County. The show airs Wednesday, May 28 at 7 & 10 p.m.

More information about the investigation can be found here. Officials recommend that pregnant women take folic acid daily to prevent birth defects, and also have their water tested for nitrate and bacteria if drinking from a private well.

Update: Watch “The Impact” below:

Categories: Healthcare, TVW

Gov. Inslee signs supplemental budget, vetoes a funding cut for life science fund

By | April 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature, but vetoed a section that would have cut funding for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

The fund provides research grants for the life sciences industry, and was established under former Gov. Chris Gregoire with money from tobacco settlements. The budget would have phased out $20 million for the fund and ended the program early.

Inslee said cutting off the funding prematurely is “short sighted,” and ignores the contributions the fund has made to the state.

He cited a program that was developed by the University of Washington and the Foundation for Health Care Quality using a $1.3 million dollar grant from the fund. That program cut healthcare costs by tens of millions of dollars by reducing the number of unnecessary surgeries and surgical complications, Inslee said.

Republican Sen. John Braun criticized the governor’s veto, saying it creates a bigger budget problem for next year by “punching a $20 million dollar hole.” He said the decision to cut funding was a difficult one for legislators on both sides the aisle, but was ultimately supported by 90 percent of lawmakers.

“To do a surprise veto at the end is disappointing,” Braun said.

The supplemental budget signed by the governor spends about $155 million dollars, including an additional $58 million for schools and $20 million for mental health services.

Inslee described it as a “modest” budget, and said he was frustrated it didn’t put more money into education by closing tax loopholes as he proposed. Next year, the state will need more than $1.5 billion dollars to fund the next step of McCleary obligations to pay for basic education, he said.

Braun said closing tax loopholes is a “tired” proposal, and Republicans believe the number needed for McCleary is closer to $750 million and can be achieved by prioritizing spending.

Inslee also vetoed several other sections of the supplemental budget. Read the full veto list here.

TVW taped the bill signing ceremony — watch it online here.

Categories: Budget, Healthcare

Last minute push to enroll people in health insurance plans before March 31 deadline

By | March 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

With the March 31 deadline approaching for people to sign up for private health insurance plans through Washington Healthplanfinder, officials are making a last-minute push to encourage people to sign up for coverage.

The deadline does not apply to Medicaid, which accepts applicants year-round.

Figures released Tuesday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange show 12,000 people signed up in the past week, an increase of four times the weekly average. A total of 895,000 people have completed enrollments through the exchange, including those who were previously covered or eligible through Medicaid.

About 250,000 newly eligible adults have signed up for Medicaid, while 125,000 people have enrolled in private commercial health insurance plans, known as Qualified Health Plans.

“Medicaid numbers are great,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the exchange, in an interview with TVW Wednesday. “The private health insurance – the qualified health plans – are really robust. We didn’t know what to expect, but to have 125,000 as of Monday is a pretty good number for us.”

Critics say that the Medicaid expansion will be a burden on state and federal taxpayers. Roger Stark of the Washington Policy Center said Wednesday that’s the “thing that gets lost in all of this discussion.”

“If we look at the numbers, only 14 percent of the people who have signed up and paid for premiums are actually in the private market,” Stark said. “That means 86 percent have signed up for the Medicaid program, an entitlement program completely funded by taxpayers.”

For more details about the last-minute push and who is signing up, as well as interviews with Onizuka and Stark, watch “The Impact” on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 & 10 p.m.

People seeking private health insurance must enroll and pay before 11:59 p.m. on March 31 for coverage that starts on May 1, 2014. To sign up, go to or attend an enrollment event.

Categories: Healthcare

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.


Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Democratic senators hold ‘briefing’ on abortion insurance bill

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

Advocates for more abortion insurance coverage gathered at the capitol Monday.

A group of Democratic state senators urged their fellow lawmakers to reconsider an abortion insurance bill during a one-sided “briefing” Monday.

The bill passed in the House last year, but stalled in the Senate. History repeated itself this session. The bill, which supporters call the Reproductive Parity Act, would require health insurers to cover abortions if they also pay for maternity care.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, legislators and advocates testified at Monday’s hour-long briefing about the importance of expanding abortion coverage, particularly for low-income women.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, is the sponsor of the stalled Senate bill. He said that he is concerned that the state’s new health insurance exchange will deny certain women the procedure and many will not be able to afford additional coverage.

“Women will have fewer choices in the end,” said Hobbs.

Elaine Rose with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest said, “People’s health care decisions are determined by how much money the have.”

An abortion costs about $600 in the first trimester and typically gets more expensive the longer a woman waits, according to Tiffany Hankins with the Community Abortion Information and Resource Project. Hankins added that abortion is a “ticking clock” because the procedure gets more expensive the longer you wait.

Bill supporter Christine Kocsis called herself “living proof” that abortion is often about money. Seven years ago, Kocsis got pregnant by an abusive partner and wanted an abortion, but delayed her procedure because she couldn’t afford it.

Although she was uninsured at the time, she said she “cannot imagine” if she had been paying for insurance and found it would only cover her if she carried the pregnancy to term. That’s the scenario advocates are trying to prevent.

Opponents said the bill discriminates against those who don’t believe in abortions. During a previous House Health Care and Wellness Committee hearing, bill critic, Angela Connely, said the act would bully people into covering the procedure.

On Monday, Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, called the bill “the abortion insurance mandate bill.” She said abortion coverage is readily available and if it becomes a problem then the issue can be readdressed.

Becker said, “What really worries me is if every carrier is forced to cover abortions what choice is left for folks who don’t want to? We have to respect those people.”

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Taxing e-cigarettes, involuntary commitment and House floor action

By | March 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Monday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have a story about a proposed 95 percent tax on e-cigarettes. The proposal drew strong opposition from more than a dozen vapor shop owners and former smokers, who say that e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to smoking.

Plus, lawmakers hear testimony from the parents of Joel Reuter, who was killed in a shootout with Seattle police. They are seeking changes to the state’s involuntary commitment law. The third segment of the show wraps up a couple of bills passed off the House floor on Monday.

Watch it below:

Categories: Budget, Healthcare

Former smokers oppose a 95 percent tax increase on e-cigarettes

By | March 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

E-cigarettes look, taste and feel like real cigarettes. But, they have a few major differences: They are tobacco-free, battery operated and contain a flavored liquid mix.

During a House Finance Committee on Friday lawmakers considered a bill that would put a 95 percent tax on the tobacco substitutes, also known as vapor products.  This would make them taxed the same as regular tobacco products.

Dozens of former smokers and vapor store owners testified against the bill and said they fear a tax increase would put vapor business out of work and discourage smokers who are trying to kick the habit.

Zach Mclean, a previous smoker for 25 years and vapor store owner, said that e-cigarettes saved his life.

“I got my smell back, my taste back and in a month I was tackling stairs again,” said Mclean.

Other opponents to the legislation explained that after switching to the fake cigarettes they could run marathons, play football with their children again and enjoy fuller lives. Kim Johnson, a vapor store owner, said the reason e-cigarettes are more effective than the patch, gum and other tobacco substitutes is because it satisfies the “hand to mouth” habit.

However, Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, challenged the idea that e-cigarettes are good for you. While the products are healthier compared to real cigarettes, he said nicotine is still addictive.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, also expressed concern that adults trying to quit smoking are not the only ones using the products. E-cigarettes doubled in popularity among teenagers between 2011 and 2012 and one in five middle schoolers said they have tried the tobacco substitutes, according to the Center Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Tracy of the Washington State Medical Association, the only one to testify in support of the bill, said that more research needs to be conducted on the products and there is “no scientific data” to back up the claims that e-cigarettes are safe. The F.D.A has yet to approve e-cigarettes.

The committee took no action on the bill Friday. It is scheduled for a committee vote at 8 a.m. Tuesday. TVW will air the hearing live on television and webcast it here.

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Supplemental budget, school construction bonds and healthcare costs

By | February 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Thursday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we have highlights from the Senate floor debate over the supplemental budget, which passed with a vote of 41 to 8 . Plus, details about a plan to pay for school construction with bonds back by lottery money.

And a plan to create a statewide health care cost database is struck from a bill in committee. Watch the show below:

Categories: Budget, Education, Healthcare

Senate committee strikes medical cost database from bill

By | February 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Correction issued March 3: The amended bill passed out of committee with a voted of 5-3. A previous version of this story said it passed out of committee unanimously.

Original story:

A statewide health care claims database could help cut medical costs, people testified Thursday. But the idea was struck from a bill considered by the Senate Health Care Committee.

Several states, including Colorado, have all-payer claims databases that allows comparisons of health care costs throughout the state. 

A plan to start a database in Washington was part of House Bill 2572, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle) and requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, but committee chair Sen. Randi Becker (R-Enumclaw) removed the idea from the bill with an amendment, saying she expected lawmakers to revisit the topic.

“We’ve taken some things out, and this just keeps the discussion going,” she said. “I  fully expect we’ll continue to work on this.

Cody said Washington has been criticized by national groups for how much information is available on health care costs.

“The state got an F from the Catalyst for Payment Reform on our transparency issues,” she said.

Before the committee voted on the amendment, several people testified to the importance of the database.

Yanling Yu of the Washington Advocates for patient safety says the database would help patients manage costs.

“Right now it’s very difficult for consumers to do that. There’s no single source of data where we can get all the information in one place where we can compare the quality and price,” she said.

Rex Johnson of Seattle agreed.

“There’s no question that we the people need this information to make intelligent decisions on our health care,” he said. “This is the type of transparency that we need.”

Patrick Connor of the National Federation of Independent Business says the group supported the original bill and was against Becker’s amendment.

“Each time we come forward asking for more transparency, more access to information, the concerns of the health insurance carriers about not wanting to participate seem to trump those of the consumers who desperately need good information to make informed decisions and help control their health care costs,” he said.

He says other states have no had problems with their databases.

“Not one of these Chicken Little complaints about price setting, price fixing, about the claims data somehow jeopardizing individuals ability to be protected in their privacy have come to pass,” he said.

Becker’s amendment passed. The amended version of the bill passed with a vote of 5-3 (view roll call votes here).

The bill creates regional health care collaboration groups and would allow the Department of Health to develop training, technical assistance and other tools for health care providers.

You can watch the hearing in TVW’s archives.

Categories: Healthcare

House passes involuntary mental health treatment bill

By | February 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

Doug and Nancy Reuter, whose son Joel died in a shootout with Seattle police, were on hand Friday to see the House of Representatives pass a bill that would allow the families of those with mental illness seek help for their loved ones through the courts.

HB 2725 would allow immediate families to ask the courts to commit or treat a person with mental illness involuntarily.

Joel Reuter

The family and friends of Joel Reuter, who had bipolar disorder, tried to get him help when his behavior became erratic, but were told repeatedly by authorities that his behavior never rose to the level of involuntary commitment.

“Joel needed to be involuntarily committed because he didn’t know that he was slipping into psychosis. But his family members knew. His parents knew, his friends knew,” said Rep. Jay Rodne (R-North Bend), on the House floor.

“We can not not afford to put this bill into law because it will save lives and early intervention will spare the tragedy that Joel and his family underwent,” Rodne said.

“This bill gives families one more option, one that I believe they need,” said bill sponsor Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle). “I am hoping this will give families one more option and prevent tragedies.”

Under the current involuntary treatment law, a designated mental health professional must sign off to commit someone involuntarily. The patient must be at grave risk to oneself or others, either through threatening to harm someone or oneself, or through becoming unable to take care of one’s basic needs.

House bill 2725 would allow immediate family members to petition the courts if the patient is denied involuntary commitment by the mental health professional. The courts can review denials and could  reverse the decision, taking the family’s testimony into account.

Friends and family of people with mental illnesses testified to being unable to help with their loved ones’ erratic and dangerous behaviors.

However, a House committee also received testimony against the bill earlier this month, that the bill would burden the already overcrowded system and wouldn’t help with capacity issues.

Lawmaker wants to ‘free Washingtonians’ to buy health insurance in other states

By | February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

A Republican lawmaker is proposing a bill that would allow Washington residents to go outside of the state’s health exchange to buy high-deductible, low premium “catastrophic” health insurance plans.

“Those plans are no longer available in the way they were in Washington before Obamacare went into effect,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place.

Sen. Steve O'Ban at a press conference Tuesday

O’Ban is proposing a bill that he said would “free Washingtonians to go across state lines” to purchase coverage in states where catastrophic health plans are widely available, including Arizona, Oregon and Idaho.

The measure also allows insurance companies to offer health plans in Washington that are exempt from state and federal requirements.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing and vote this week in the Senate Health Care committee. Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, is sponsoring a companion bill in the House, but he said it has not been allowed a hearing.

“Politics aside, we have real people who are suffering real pain,” Manweller said at a press conference Tuesday.

Heidi Erickson of Federal Way is an insurance broker, and said she used to pay $321 a month for a catastrophic health insurance plan that was cancelled once the Affordable Care Act went into effect. A similar plan now costs $487 a month, she said, and requires $12,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses.

“To me, that is not a catastrophic plan. That is simply not insurance,” Erickson said. “So I’ve opted to just not have insurance until there’s another option.”

Categories: Healthcare

On ‘Legislative Review:’ Gay conversion therapy, toxic toys and oil spill laws

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday’s edition of “Legislative Review,” we cover two bills considered in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. One bill aims to end the practice of gay conversion therapy on minors, and the other would increase suicide prevention training for medical professionals.

We also have highlights from the floor debate about a bill that would ban certain flame retardants from being used in furniture and children’s products. Plus, a debate over a bill that would tighten the state’s oil spill laws.

Watch the show below: