Monthly Archives: February 2014

A chat with the president on health care

February 25th, 2014|

Joining me for the call from President Obama were, from left, Sen. Annette Cleveland; Misha Werschkul of SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest; Kathryn Kolan of the Washington State Medical Association; Katherine White Tudor representing community health providers; and Teresa Mosqueda representing the Healthy Washington Coalition.

A chat with the president on health care

I enjoyed the company of Sen. Annette Cleveland and representatives of a range of health care stakeholders Monday when I participated in a conference call with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act.

As you know, enrollment has gone very well here for thousands of Washingtonians who had not previously had access to affordable health plans. But in other parts of the country, where governors and state legislatures have tried to sabotage the ACA instead of helping constituents access health care plans, things have not gone quite so well.

The president cited efforts to help a number of lagging states along, and noted that the biggest learning curve has centered on cost. Many eligible citizens, he said, don’t realize how affordable the plans can be or that they may be eligible for subsidies that ensure affordability. It was a good reminder of how effective wahealthplanfinder.org has been as well as the need to get the work out to those who have yet to enroll.

To that end, we also discussed the possibility of hosting a series of “One Week To Go” enrollment events on Saturday, March 15, to help enrollees who have yet to sign up. I’ll share further details on that as things firm up.

Keiser

 

Keiser calls Capital Budget ‘a missed opportunity’

February 24th, 2014|

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent and ranking member on the Senate’s Capital Budget, issued this statement today on the Senate’s capital budget proposal:

“The budget that was proposed today provides a few modest improvements but I think it also represents a missed opportunity.

“First, we’re backing away from $90 million in bonds authorized in last year’s biennial budget. Failing to tap this authorization will cost us nearly 1,000 family wage jobs. I’m frankly at a loss to understand why we would forego the opportunity to create so many valuable jobs during a flat economy that has offered little growth or job creation.

“Second, this budget withdraws the agreed-upon funding for the 1063 project to consolidate our scattered State Patrol offices into a single, cost-efficient headquarters in place of a derelict property along Capital Way. Given that this project was estimated to save $750 million over the 75-year life of the building and create roughly 800 jobs, I consider it penny wise and pound foolish to not make that investment.

“I am happy to cite two positives in the budget and related legislation. The first is a reallocation of $50 million in unspent funds to the school construction assistance program to create a bond program for all-day kindergarten and STEM (science, technology and math) labs. The second is an allocation of $46 million to fund the clean-up of as many as 30 toxic waste sites across the state.

“In the larger scheme of things, however, the architecture of this budget is disappointing. I look forward to negotiations with the House, which I hope will provide opportunities to increase our investments in our state’s future.”

Sen. Keiser’s enewsletter update 2/7/2014

February 7th, 2014|

Dear Neighbors,

We are fast approaching the midpoint for this year’s legislative session, and I am so pleased to report that we finally achieved an important goal — passage of the Dream Act.  The Dream Act is about making sure that all children have an equal opportunity to graduate from high school, access higher education and reach for the American Dream.   The Dream Act is for undocumented students who have grown up here, gone to school here, paid taxes here and have families who work here and contribute to our economy.

The Senate’s Republican majority caucus finally put politics aside to pass the Dream Act, and joined us in making sure the American Dream is alive for all our kids. The vote was strong, with all 23 members of the Democratic caucus and 10 Republicans, along with the two “MCC” members giving the bill 35 votes.   The bill now returns to the House for concurrence. The House passed the bill to the Senate on Jan. 13, the very first day of the session, so the importance of this milestone should be clear.

A lengthy floor debate earlier this week centered on a proposed Constitutional Amendment to lock in tax loopholes under the guise of limiting tax increases.  The legislature has a history of enacting special interest tax loopholes.  Every year we enact at least a few more tax breaks for business interests.  It has not enacted a state sales tax increase in more than 30 years.  I rose to speak about the unfairness of allowing a small minority of 17 legislators out of 147, to lock in those tax loopholes. You can see and hear my floor speech by clicking here.

I was also deeply disappointed this week to see two other important health care bills I have carried be killed by the committee chair who refused to put them up for a vote.  SB 6233  would have given small business entrepreneurs a B&O tax break if their health care insurance premiums significantly increased this year.  Under the Affordable Care Act, some “group of one” policies were cancelled and were replaced with more expensive policies.  This temporary tax break would have helped several thousand small businesses as they transition to new, hopefully lower cost, plans next year.

The other bill killed by the Health Care Committee chair was SB 6170, my proposal to address health disparities among different ethnic groups with training in cultural competency for medical providers.  Our district has a very diverse population, from Koreans who seem to disproportionately suffer from some stomach cancers to Somalis who are not always able to communicate with providers about their concerns, and many many other communities of color who feel their cultural preferences are not well understood by some in the medical community.  I hope to bring this bill forward again next year.

I am sad to report that, despite my repeated requests, the chair of the Senate Health Committee refused to hear my bill to give the state authority to implement a federal Basic Health Plan. The bill, SB 6231, did not obligate the state to set up the federal BHP; it simply gave the state the flexibility to look at ways to better serve individuals and families who are not able to qualify for Medicaid but not economically strong enough to maintain private health insurance, even with the tax subsidies of our health exchange.

One of my favorites is SB 6214, to create a state Alzheimer’s plan to promote early detection and treatment for the illness and to coordinate existing resources to improve communications and services to patients and their families.  I am very pleased to be able to tell you that this bill passed out of committee with a unanimous vote.

It is also ramp-up time for development of our budgets. As I reported earlier, I have been honored to be elected by my caucus to lead on the state’s capital budget. It is a terrific opportunity to shape the future of our state. We use capital budget funds to build our schools and colleges, public health facilities, housing, prisons, parks and recreation resources.

In past years, I have focused my attention on the operating budget, which pays for operating our schools and colleges, health services, housing services, prisons, parks and recreation resources.  Working on the capital budget side of the equation is a fascinating shift in perspective, and I am learning a lot about financing as well.

Finally, some of you may be aware that I have openly opposed a Republican bill that would eliminate the State Insurance Commissioner position, which is an elective office, and replace it with a board appointed by the Republican and Democratic caucuses.  To hear my take on this subject, you can listen to an interview that aired on KIRO radio last evening by  clicking here.

Until next week, I am hoping that your family is keeping safe and warm during the cold spell!

Keiser

Keiser pokes holes in GOP’s insurance commissioner bill

February 7th, 2014|

Thursday night on KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz program, Sen. Karen Keiser explained the fallacies of Senate Bill 6458, which would eliminte the popularly elected position of state insurance commissioner and replace it with a unelected board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. You can hear the full program here.

‘Supermajority’ bill would create superminority

February 5th, 2014|

Sen. Karen Keiser took the Senate floor today to speak against Senate Bill 8213, which would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature to approve legislation affecting taxation, including the repeal of tax loopholes for special interests.

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Keiser corrects GOP claims of ACA jobs impact

February 4th, 2014|

Sen. Karen Keiser of Kent, a longtime member and former chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, issued this statement today in response to state and federal GOP claims that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will cost people jobs.

“In order to make sound choices about their health care, Washingtonians need sound information — not talking points handed down from congressional Republicans that play fast and loose with the findings of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“Fact: The CBO report that was released today did not say the ACA will eliminate jobs. The report said the ACA will give people who are trapped in “job lock” — working only so that they can secure health insurance — the ability to retire or reduce their hours. As the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation points out, there are people in their late 50s and early 60s who would like to retire to address health issues but instead keep working to have health coverage. Now some of them can retire because they can’t be discriminated against for pre-existing conditions and may get help paying their premiums.

“Fact: There’s a big difference between people losing jobs and people choosing not to work. When people are able to retire without fear of losing their health coverage, their jobs are filled with new hires and unemployment goes down. So, if anything, what this does is open up jobs for those who truly need them.

“Fact: The CBO report clearly states, and I quote, ‘there’s no compelling evidence that part-time employment has increased as a result of the ACA.’ Of course, to know that, and not simply make the mistakes my Republican colleagues appear to be making, you have to have actually read the report you’re talking about.

“Fact: When people can retire or work lighter hours to address serious health care issues, that’s a good thing. That’s the kind of thing that makes our country stronger and a better place to live and work.

“Fact: The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column gave the GOP claims a rating of three Pinocchios — signifying ‘significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.’ Washingtonians expect, and deserve, better than that.”