Monthly Archives: April 2019

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    Cleveland: Passage of project legislation enhances I-5 bridge efforts

Cleveland: Passage of project legislation enhances I-5 bridge efforts

April 11th, 2019|

Legislation passed late Wednesday by the Senate will lay additional groundwork to replace the outdated I-5 Bridge, Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) said.

“The path to the new bridge demands patience and many steps, and this is one of those steps,” Cleveland said. “Each step moves us forward, and together these small steps will deliver the bridge and the major benefits it will bring our community and our regional economy.”

HB 1994 designates a new I-5 bridge as a project of statewide significance and requires the state Department of Transportation to assign a coordinator and identify a team that will coordinate efforts to facilitate its design and completion.

In related news, the Senate last week passed a transportation budget that includes $8.5 million toward the operation of an I-5 bridge joint office between Washington and Oregon. The office enables the two states to restart the process of designing and building a new bridge.

“I am gratified by this additional progress and will continue to tirelessly push forward toward successful replacement of the antiquated I-5 bridge,” Cleveland said. “This project is not only critical for our community, it is crucial to our state and region.”

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    Senate committee takes action to prevent future measles outbreaks

Senate committee takes action to prevent future measles outbreaks

April 2nd, 2019|

Legislation to address the health threat posed by the ongoing measles outbreak in Clark County awaits a vote of the full Senate after a key committee recommended its adoption. 

“At a time when internet myths and alternate facts make it harder for people to know the truth about the science-based measures that keep our communities safe, we are taking action to protect the public health from highly contagious diseases,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Exposure to measles is a major threat to babies, pregnant mothers and people with compromised immune systems, and can be easily and safely prevented.”

As recently as 1964, more than 20,000 Washingtonians suffered exposure to measles in a single year, but the introduction of the current measles vaccine in 1968 reduced exposures to mere hundreds, Cleveland noted. By the year 2000, the nation was able to declare measles eradicated. Since then, however, an internet-fueled movement against vaccinations has led to a rise in unvaccinated children, with measles exposures reaching a 20-year high in 2014. In 90% of those cases, the measles patients either had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status could not be determined.

“Every credible organization, every science-based policy, and every peer-reviewed study consistently shows that vaccinations easily and safely prevent measles,” Cleveland said. “Most people understand this, but the loud voices of a passionate minority have sowed confusion and controversy about these reliable immunizations that have kept us safe for generations from diseases that once were common.”

House Bill 1638 would eliminate the personal belief exemption from vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) while retaining medical and religious exemptions. A broader Senate bill sponsored by Cleveland would have removed the personal belief exemptions for all required immunizations but failed to pass out of the Senate in time to meet a key legislative deadline.

“It’s essential we take action to keep the public safe from these highly contagious diseases, as the outbreak in Clark County shows right in our back yard,” said Cleveland. “The threat of contagion is real and it is serious, not only to other students but especially to infants too young to be vaccinated, to children and adults with depressed immune systems due to disease or cancer treatment, and to pregnant women.” 

Cleveland’s amendment, adopted Monday in committee, removed language from five Republican amendments that had weakened the bill and retained language from a Democratic amendment that strengthened it. That amendment prohibits employees or volunteers from working at licensed child day care centers unless they present proof of immunization for the MMR vaccine or proof of immunity to measles from a health care provider or laboratory. The amendment provides for two exceptions: employees and volunteers for whom MMR immunization is certified as inadvisable by a health care practitioner; and employees or volunteers who have received the MMR vaccine or are immune from measles but need time to obtain and provide the records.

“We must take swift action now to prevent any additional needless suffering and the potential of death from this latest serious outbreak,” Cleveland said. “We must not forget that in the U.S., vaccine-preventable infections kill more people annually than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, or traffic accidents. Approximately 50,000 adults die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S.”

Diseases not only undermine the health of individuals and their families but also carry a high price tag for society as a whole, exceeding $10 billion per year in direct and indirect costs, Cleveland said. The measles outbreak in Clark County alone has so far cost the public over $1 million dollars.

The measles outbreak in Clark County has been declared a state of emergency by Gov. Jay Inslee and, among other things, has caused many children to miss school either due to illness or preventive measures by school administrators, Cleveland noted.

The number of confirmed measles exposures in Clark County has reached 73, with 53 cases between ages 1-10; 15 in ages 11-18, one case in ages 19-19; and four cases in ages 30-39. Sixty-three of the 73 had not been immunized, and three others had received a single MMR vaccine but not the second; the immunization status of the remaining seven others could not be verified. “Before the current vaccine became available, annual exposures were typically in the thousands, often topping 20,000; vaccinations eventually reduced the number of exposures to the hundreds and then to double digits for several decades now,” Cleveland said. “The central question before us is whether the right of one person to refuse a vaccine outweighs the rights of the larger community to be protected from a disease, and the numbers give a pretty definitive answer.”

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    Legislature sends bill to governor’s desk protecting health care

Legislature sends bill to governor’s desk protecting health care

April 2nd, 2019|

Health care policies sold in Washington must honor existing patient protections even if those standards are eliminated by action taken at the federal level, under legislation passed Monday by the state Legislature.

House Bill 1870 had passed the House on March 1, but the Senate amended it to include an emergency clause last week after the U.S. Justice Department asked 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to uphold an earlier Texas court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional. That ruling, which is under appeal, would rescind the ACA and a wide range of important consumer protections. The emergency clause, which required the House pass the bill a second time, means Washington’s law will take effect immediately upon its signing by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“We know the Trump administration has vowed repeatedly to repeal the ACA, and last week’s actions prompted us to get these protections into law as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), who sponsored the amendment to add the emergency clause. “We’re just a signature away from protecting Washingtonians from losing the health care they need, regardless of what the White House or the courts do.”

As chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, Cleveland has made protecting and maintaining the gains made in health care coverage for citizens in Washington state a priority. 

“Washington State has benefited from the federal Affordable Care Act that put in place health insurance protections families and individuals have come to depend on, including no longer facing the threat of losing coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or due to reaching a lifetime spending cap,” said Cleveland. “As a result, our state’s uninsured rate has dropped 61%, and the number of adults gaining coverage grew by 800,000.”

Cleveland sponsored identical companion legislation in the Senate, ensuring that Washingtonians’ health care coverage would be protected regardless of which chamber passed its legislation.

“In the face of continued efforts at the federal level to roll back this progress, it was crucial for us to take action now to bring key components of these health reforms into state law,” she said. “I am pleased our citizens can now have greater certainty that their health care coverage is not in jeopardy.”

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.

“This critical legislation will reassure Washingtonians that no one in the other Washington can eliminate their right to get the health care they need and deserve, for themselves and for their families,” Cleveland said. “We’re not going to let anyone play politics with people’s health care, at least not in Washington state.”