Monthly Archives: May 2013

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    Helping Minnesota follow Washington’s path in environmental protection

Helping Minnesota follow Washington’s path in environmental protection

May 22nd, 2013|

In 2011, Washington became the first state in the union to ban coal-tar sealants by passing HB 1721, which I sponsored when still in the House of Representatives. When it rains, the storm water runoff carries with it chemicals from these sealants that can be seriously harmful to the environment. I was glad to hear that Minnesota just joined Washington in banning these sealants.

I had the opportunity to work with key environmental stakeholders in getting this environmental protection into law, and I’m honored that Friends of the Mississippi River recognized me in their letter announcing the passage of the legislation:



To whom it may concern,

In a major (an unexpected) victory for water quality and public health, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill phasing out the use of coal tar sealants in Minnesota.

Effective January 1st 2014, no person shall apply coal tar sealant products on asphalt-pavement surfaces, nor sell a coal tar sealant product that is formulated or marketed for application on asphalt-paved surfaces. This bill was passed on May 20th, and is now awaiting Governor Dayton’s signature.

A link to FMR’s e-newsletter article on the subject is available here:

The bill was introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives by Representative Rick Hansen. It passed and was included in the House’s version of the Omnibus Legacy Bill. The Senate version of the Omnibus Legacy Bill did not include the provision, but it survived conference committee and was in the final version of both bills. The House and Senate passed the Omnibus Legacy Bill on Monday, May 20th 2013.

Special thanks to our friends in the USGS, The State of Washington, Senator David Frockt, local sealant contractors, Baylor University, and the many environmental researchers and educators who provided the information that made this victory possible.

Trevor A. Russell

Watershed Program Director

Friends of the Mississippi River

360 North Robert Street, Suite 400

Saint Paul, MN 55101

Frockt bill to expand health care access signed into law

May 20th, 2013|

A bill to help repay school loans for health professionals who work in rural and underserved areas was signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This bill kills two birds with one stone,” said by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, the sponsor of Senate Bill 5615. “There are areas in this state that lack enough primary care professionals to provide the health care that residents need. At the same time, we have students graduating from medical school with huge amounts of debt. This bill has the potential to reinvigorate a program already in state law to help repay school loans for health care professionals who work in these critically underserved areas.”

According to a 2009 survey by UW Medicine magazine, 93 percent of the University of Washington Medical School’s 2009 graduating class had student debt from medical school. Seventy-two percent had more than $100,000 of debt from medical school alone, not counting debt from their undergraduate education.

Washington’s Health Loan Repayment Program provides scholarships and loan forgiveness to health professionals, including doctors and nurses, who intend to practice in underserved rural and urban areas of our state. SB 5615 would empower the Student Achievement Council, which administers the program, to pursue additional public-private partnerships with foundations and other private sources in order to address ongoing critical health professional shortage areas.

Students supported SB 5615 at each step of the process. Anna Hackenmiller, a first-year student at the UW School of Medicine, said “Before attending medical school, I worked as a dental hygienist at the Yakima Valley Farm Worker’s Clinic in Toppenish. I fell in love with the patient population and decided I would be of better service as a physician. Knowing that there is loan repayment for working in a rural area would virtually guarantee my employment in such a community.”

Danielle Micheletti, a recently graduated physician assistant in the Methow Valley, noted the challenges that recent graduates in underserved areas often have in repaying their student loans. “The loan repayment program made it feasible to move to this area where the rate of pay is less than in urban and suburban areas. I had to take a significant pay cut to accept this job.  It has all been worth it though, as I love the Methow Valley and the population we serve,” said Micheletti.

“We’re very appreciative of the Senator’s efforts to find a way to make money, through loans, more available to medical residents,” said Dr. Nick Rajacich, President of the Washington State Medical Association. “Medical education is very costly and this is one way to help address those costs. We need to make sure that we have as many physicians available as possible – particularly in rural areas – as we move toward an expanded number of patients under health care reform. This is one piece that will be very helpful in meeting that goal.”

“Health care should be accessible to all Washingtonians, no matter where they live,” said Frockt. “This bill takes a proven loan repayment program and establishes a process for it to expand at no taxpayer cost. It will enable more primary care professionals to go out and serve more areas that so desperately need their help.”

Children’s health care bill signed into law

May 8th, 2013|

A bill to protect children with a rare gastrointestinal disorder was signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

SHB 1216, sponsored by Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, would move the Department of Health towards mandating that insurance companies cover the elemental formula necessary to feed children who suffer from a rare gastrointestinal disorder called eosinophilia.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that a child could suffer from a major medical issue like eosinophilia and that their family could struggle to have to pay for their care,” said Habib. “Insurance companies can and should find it in their capacity to pay for medicine that sick children need to live.”

“This is a life-sustaining, life-saving medical food that some insurers have decided not to cover.” said Frockt. “This is the very definition of a necessary treatment because otherwise these children may not be able to get any other nutrients into their bodies. All Washington families need to know that the insurance that they’ve paid for their children will be there for them when they need it.”

Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders are very rare. Those who suffer from the disorder are unable to breakdown proteins, meaning they must take proteins through a special elemental formula. If the treatment must be delivered through an invasive feeding tube, the expensive formula is generally covered by insurance. However, if the patient is able to swallow the formula, many private insurers will not cover the cost.

The treatment costs approximately $1,200 per month and many families have great difficulty covering the out-of-pocket cost for the treatment. Mandating insurance coverage would help those families afford life-saving treatment for their children.

The bill would require the state Department of Health to conduct a sunrise review on instituting a mandate that all insurance plans cover treatment for eosinophilia regardless of delivery method. The department would examine the impact on insurance plans and report back to the Legislature no later than 30 days prior to the 2014 legislative session and the Legislature would take appropriate action.

Jeff Schwartz, the parent of a child with eosinophilia, brought the issue to the attention of Habib and Frockt and testified on several occasions before legislative committees. Schwartz’s citizen advocacy was a major part of the effort to rally support for the bill and demonstrated to legislators on both sides of the aisle the importance of putting this protection for families into law.

“Eosinophilia is rare, but a child with eosinophilia changes a family forever,” said Schwartz. “The struggle that families have to go through is hugely challenging. Every family should be able to be confident that if their child is stricken with this rare and terrible disorder, their insurance company will be there for them. This is a basic protection. Medicaid covers it; private insurance should cover it as well. It’s only fair.”

“When people pay for health insurance, it’s reasonable for them to expect that their insurance will pay for treatment that their child needs to survive,” said Habib. “I’m glad that Jeff brought this issue to our attention and that we were able to pass a bill to help solve the problem.”

“Jeff’s advocacy was a big part of getting this bill passed,” said Frockt. “He came to me last summer. When he explained the situation, I decided that this was an easy call to sponsor.  I don’t know where we’d be without people like Jeff who demonstrate what determined advocacy is all about.”