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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been a busy interim! I have absolutely loved getting to spend time with my neighbors in Kent, Auburn, Covington, and Renton, and have even gotten to travel the state for an in-depth look at issues that all Washingtonians prioritize.

One of the things I heard most consistently was a concern about health care. Though I do not sit on the Health and Long Term Care Committee, I want to take this opportunity to tell you about what my colleagues at the legislature did to address health care concerns last session, and what we plan to continue working on.

My colleagues and I worked to ensure people have affordable health coverage by protecting and maintaining coverage against federal rollback actions and by focusing on health insurance premiums, deductibles, prescription drug pricing, surprise medical bills and universal health care.

We also worked to address the increasing long-term care needs of our aging population, and we fought for equitable health care access and opportunity for all, with a focus on providing care for communities that have historically been overlooked, including children with mental health needs, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants and Native Americans.

I supported all of these measures when they came to the Senate floor, because I believe that we all deserve to be healthy. We all deserve affordable health care. And we all deserve to be advocated for by our legislators – and that’s why I’m here.

In gratitude,

Mona

equity of care

Health Care Equity

Our state has a lot to be proud of in our history of expanding health care, but there are still barriers to care for our vulnerable neighbors like Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, undocumented immigrants, students, and transgender and gender non-conforming communities. This year, we made progress tearing down some of the worst of those barriers.

  • SB 5602 prohibits providers that deliver services purchased by the Health Care Authority from discriminating based on a person’s gender identity or expression. Health plans may not issue automatic coverage denials for reproductive health services based on a person’s assigned gender or gender identity. They must provide coverage for certain health care services like condoms, well-person preventive visits, prenatal vitamins, and breast pumps. The Bree Collaborative will write guidelines for sexual reproductive health services for people of color, immigrants and refugees, victims and survivors of violence, and people with disabilities.
  • SB 5415 creates the governor’s Indian Health Advisory Council to adopt the biennial Indian Health Improvement Advisory Plan, and establishes the Indian Health Improvement Reinvestment Account to fund programs and activities identified in the Advisory Plan with funds from new savings from federal reimbursement changes.
  • SB 5274 creates 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.
  • SB 5425 extends the Maternal Mortality Review Panel, permits patient mental health service records be disclosed to the Secretary of Health for the purposes of the Review Panel, and requires counties that provide autopsies for use by the Review Panel be reimbursed by the state’s Death Investigations Account at 100% of cost.

Tobacco 21

This year, the Legislature took action to address the harmful impact tobacco products are having on our kids. HB 1074 prohibited the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products and vapor products to persons under the age of 21. Over 30 years ago, it was discovered that Marlboro’s key market was young adults aged 17 to 21. Seventeen year olds cannot even legally purchase cigarettes, but Marlboro was targeting them anyway. Now, in 2019, they’re finding even more alarming ways to target our children. We’re seeing vape pens flooding high schools. We decided to address this. By increasing the age to purchase for tobacco and nicotine products, we will save countless lives and continue the legacy of encouraging public health by interrupting the cycle of addiction.

health insurance graphic

Health Insurance and Access

We addressed Washingtonians’ most frequently voiced area of concern by making changes that will immediately improve health care and also make our system better in the long term. First, we protected several essential benefits provided through the ACA. Families in Washington need no longer fear the threat of losing coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or because they reach a lifetime spending cap. Second, we strengthened consumer protections by protecting patients from surprise billing — being billed extra for medical care from an out-of-network provider. Finally, our budget funds a study involving all relevant stakeholders to lay out a clear, step-by-step path on how to implement a universal health care system in our state.

  • SB 5526 requires the Health Care Authority to contract with a health carrier to offer qualified health plans, also known as a public option. It requires the Health Benefit Exchange to develop standardized health plans and to develop a plan to implement and fund premium subsidies.
  • HB 1065 protects consumers from additional, unexpected hospital bills by establishing an arbitration process to settle “balance billing” disputes between health carriers and out-of-network providers and facilities that charge more.
  • HB 1870 codifies certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including prohibiting a health carrier from rejecting an applicant based on preexisting conditions or restricting annual and lifetime limits on essential health benefits, into state law.

Long-term Care

Washington took critical steps to prepare for an increasing aging population’s care, plus support for their families, when we passed the Long-term Care Insurance Act. We believe that no one should have to spend their way down into poverty just to be eligible for long-term care through Medicaid, which was the dire reality facing many.

Something I’ve heard concerns about recently are the increasingly common closures of nursing homes. I strongly agree with many of the concerns expressed that no community wants to see a nursing home close.

But one big reason nursing homes are seeing fewer clients is that seniors are more often choosing home care or less-intensive, more community-based facilities such as adult family homes. These community settings are more appealing to seniors and more cost-effective. In 2015 and 2016, at the request of senior groups, the legislature improved the way that home care nursing is reimbursed in order to make it easier for Washington’s seniors to age in place.

It’s good that seniors are able to choose the option they want, and I can assure you that I am committed to ensuring a full complement of care is available across our state.

Oct. 3, 2019

Contact Us

Olympia Office:

(360) 786-7692

Kent Office:

(253) 395-0867

Email:

Mona.Das@leg.wa.gov

Mailing Address:

Sen. Mona Das
PO Box 40447
Olympia, WA 98504-0403

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My Committees

Housing Stability & Affordability
(vice chair)

Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade

Environment, Energy & Technology

Transportation