Monthly Archives: March 2019

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    Senate passes bill to require essential patient coverage under state law

Senate passes bill to require essential patient coverage under state law

March 27th, 2019|

State law will require health care policies sold in Washington to honor existing consumer protections even if those requirements are reduced by action taken at the federal level, under legislation passed today by the Senate.

“We know that the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act in 2010 brought tremendous relief to households across our state and across our nation,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), who sponsored companion legislation to the House bill that passed today in the Senate. “The Trump administration’s efforts to rescind the act this week make passage of this legislation more important and urgent than ever.”

In a filing Monday to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the U.S. Justice Department said it agrees with an earlier Texas court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That ruling is under appeal. If the act were rescinded, a wide range of popular consumer protections would be eliminated.

“Washingtonians should be reassured that our top priority at the state level this year has been to protect everyone’s access to full and affordable health care coverage,” said Cleveland, who chairs the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. “Today’s legislation will protect Washingtonians from losing the health care they and their families need, regardless of the actions of the White House or the courts.”

House Bill 1870 requires that any health care plan sold in Washington state provide numerous consumer protections, including:

  • Strict annual limits on out-of-pocket costs to consumers, such as copays and deductibles;
  • Coverage cannot be denied based on a consumer’s existing medical condition;
  • Guarantees that patients can’t be dropped from coverage, except in cases of fraud;
  • Prevents patients from being charged more based on their health status;
  • Providers cannot cap the maximum cost of coverage or benefits in a patient’s lifetime; and
  • Provides patients with a standardized summary of benefits so they can more clearly understand what is covered.

The bill also codifies requirements for: outpatient care; emergency services; hospitalization; pregnancy, maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance abuse treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative services and equipment; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; reproductive care; breastfeeding; and pediatric services.

“People are scared, and this week’s actions by the White House have confirmed their worst fears. People are worried they might not be able to get the care they need and deserve, or that a single catastrophic illness could wipe out their savings and cost them their home,” Cleveland said. “No one should have to decide between medical care and putting food on the table, or sacrifice everything they own just to get medical care.”

Although it had already passed the House, HB 1870 was amended by the Senate and must now go back to the House for passage in its amended form before it can be signed into law by Gov. Inslee. One amendment by the Senate added an emergency clause, meaning the bill would take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature instead of the standard 90 days after the final day of the legislative session. The bill passed 28-17, with all Democrats and one Republican voting in favor.

“The legislation we passed today maintains our commitment to putting people first by taking the fastest action available to preserve our level of health care,” Cleveland said. “We will not let the Trump administration or anyone else put the health of the people of Washington at risk.”

Senate adopts Cleveland resolution on anniversary of ERA

March 22nd, 2019|

You can hear state Sen. Annette Cleveland’s floor speech today recognizing the 47th anniversary of the passage of the Federal Equal Rights Amendment by the U.S. Senate and the 46th anniversary of its passage by the Washington state Senate by clicking here.

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    Senate passes broad slate of bills to improve people’s health care

Senate passes broad slate of bills to improve people’s health care

March 13th, 2019|

Fifteen bills passed today by the Senate would improve health care coverage, access and affordability for vast numbers of people with a wide variety of needs in communities across Washington state.

“When I talk to people, the number-one concern I hear is whether they will able to access the health care coverage they need at a price they can afford,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), who chairs the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. “The Trump Administration has done everything in its power to undermine the health care coverage advances we’ve made in Washington. These bills are necessary to put people first, ahead of big pharma and other special interests, and address the health care needs our households face first and foremost.”

Two bills directly address the three major Democratic priorities — affordability, access, and extent of coverage — by creating affordable plans for people without health care and by setting the state on a path toward health care for all.

Senate Bill 5526, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), would create affordable insurance plans for those whose employers do not provide health care plans, ensuring that all Washingtonians are covered, through the creation of Cascade Care.

SB 5822, sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), would create a work group to identify and recommend how the state can achieve universal health care and what would be the best system for achieving that, such as a single payer system or other solution.

Other bills would address a more diverse range of needs.

SB 5415, sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip), would establish an Indian Health Improvement Reinvestment Account to use new state savings from recent federal reimbursement policy changes to fund programs that improve the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington state.

SB 5828, sponsored by Cleveland, would help people stay in their own homes by increasing payment for Medicaid home health services to no less than 100 percent of the Medicare rate, reimbursing costs for social workers and telemedicines under the Medicaid home health benefit, and improving reimbursement methodology.

SB 5846, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, would increase the availability and cultural competency of health professionals, particularly in rural areas.

SB 5184, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), would protect consumers from being signed up for mail-order prescription plans without their knowledge or consent.

SB 5274, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), would establish a dental care program for Washington residents who are citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau. These exploited populations were provided residency in the United States, but not health care coverage, because their home islands had been used as target practice for nuclear bombs. The state assumed responsibility for providing their health care, and this legislation extends their coverage to include dental care.

SB 5359, sponsored by Cleveland, would address the steeply rising caseload of complaints about residential service providers from people with developmental disabilities by charging a fee to fund the hiring of additional investigators.

SB 5741, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), would ensure fiscal sustainability for the state’s database that provides information on the prices for health care services in specific geographic areas.

“No one should have to go broke trying to keep up with the cost of health care, and no one should have to cut corners on their health in order to pay for food or other basic expenses,” Cleveland said. “These important bills address a wide range of needs and ensure our state will continue to be a leader in the fight for accessible, affordable health care that covers their true needs.”

Other health care bills that passed today include:

SB 5523 would improve the performance of managed care organizations contracted to care for Medicaid clients in Washington state by making portions of their funding contingent upon their performance meeting or exceeding the national average for access to care, preventative care, chronic care management, and medical care utilization.

SB 5054 would expand the behavioral health workforce by creating a reciprocity and probationary program for mental health professionals licensed in another state.

SB 5385 would ensure parity by requiring health plans to pay the same rate for a health care service provided through telemedicine as is paid for an in-person service.

SB 5389 would allow the use of teleconsultants to assist students at risk of substance abuse, violence or suicide.

SB 5483 would improve services for people with disabilities by requiring the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to track and monitor certain client hospitalizations.

SB 5536 would help people with developmental disabilities by directing DSHS to assess whether patients in care facilities are benefiting from active treatment or if they should be moved to an alternative setting that more appropriately meets their needs.

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For interviews:         Sen. Annette Cleveland, 360-786-7696
For information:       Rick Manugian, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7569

Cleveland: State vaccination efforts moving forward

March 13th, 2019|

Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) released this statement today on the status of legislation to maintain immunization requirements that protect the public from outbreaks of contagious diseases:

“Throughout this legislative session, I have been working with Rep. Paul Harris [R-Vancouver] on dual legislation in the Senate and House. From the start, we agreed what’s important is that we address this critical public health need, not which chamber the legislation came from. To that end, our plan now is for the Senate to take the bill passed by the House and work for passage by the Senate.

“The near-elimination of these highly contagious diseases has led many people to underestimate the seriousness of the potential threat to public health. Just because outbreaks are rare does not mean the need for immunizations is any less. Outbreaks are rare expressly because we maintain our immunity through widespread vaccination.

“Because Washington is one of only 17 states that allow broad personal exemptions, we have become vulnerable to outbreaks as evidenced by the ongoing measles exposures in Clark County. It is only this broad personal exemption that is proposed for elimination. The rights of parents continue to be respected by retaining both the medical and religious exemptions, allowing for consultation with a family’s doctor and/or religious beliefs in regard to vaccinating children. Striking this careful balance is imperative. 

“It is also imperative, however, that we heed the overwhelming findings in peer-reviewed studies of clinical diseases and the recommendations from experts at the Centers for Disease Control, and protect our communities from outbreaks of easily prevented diseases.

“Just last week, a study of more than 657,000 children born in Denmark concluded there is no link between vaccinations and autism, the most frequently cited fear of parents who oppose vaccinations. What’s more, the study determined that children who are not vaccinated are in fact more likely to develop autism than children who are vaccinated.

“In today’s divisive political environment, many people are ignoring reasoned facts and science in favor of alternative realities that make it difficult to move forward with rational policies. Unfortunately, the most misinformed voices are often the loudest.

“Our state secretary of health has declared the urgent and overriding need for this legislation in no uncertain terms. Earlier this month, the U.S. surgeon general came to Clark County, the site of an outbreak that has reached 71 confirmed exposures at last  count, to try to educate the public on the  need — and inherent safety — of  vaccines and immunizations.

“These are the top medical minds in our state and in our nation. Who can better inform our public health policies than them? If we allow the politicization of issues critical to our public health and safety, rather than listening to the leading experts in medicine, we will be abandoning our duty to protect public health.”

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    Cleveland negotiates funds for new I-5 bridge in transportation package

Cleveland negotiates funds for new I-5 bridge in transportation package

March 6th, 2019|

The transportation revenue package passed today by the Senate Transportation Committee includes $450 million toward a new I-5 bridge, Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) said today. The package now goes to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration there before it can go to the floor for a full vote of the Senate.

“This is another concrete step toward getting this project moving while we work with Oregon to design a planning process and determine the details of a new bridge,” Cleveland said. “This is only a down payment on what a new bridge will cost, of course, but we anticipate funding from other avenues, including our federal and Oregon state partners once we agree on a mutual vision for the new bridge.”

The funding in the revenue package comes in addition to $17.5 million Gov. Jay Inslee identified in his proposed budget for the 2019-20 biennium, and Cleveland was able to secure in the Senate’s proposed transportation budget. That money would fund a project office to restart the process of designing and building a new bridge, reaffirm Washington’s ongoing commitment to our other partners, and avoid repayment of $140 million in federal funds due this fall if Washington and Oregon fail to restart efforts to build a new I-5 bridge.

In 2013, Washington’s failure to pass legislation approving the two states’ joint Columbia River Crossing project cost the states an additional $850 million in federal transit funds that had been allocated for a new bridge. That money was then re-allocated for transportation projects in other states.

A bipartisan coalition of Southwest Washington state legislators has collaborated in recent years to restart the effort to build a new bridge. That group consists of Cleveland, Sens. Ann Rivers and Lynda Wilson, and Reps. Sharon Wylie, Monica Stonier, Paul Harris and Brandon Vick and was recently joined by Rep. Larry Hoff.