Monthly Archives: January 2017

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    Reject intimidation and fear; stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters

Reject intimidation and fear; stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters

January 30th, 2017|

SEATAC – Responding to the recent executive order issued by President Trump barring entry into the United States for refugees, migrants and foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, released the following statement:

“The 33rd Legislative District is home to immigrants and refugees from across the globe who have contributed to our communities, started businesses, participated in civic organizations and added immeasurable value to our collective sense of identity as Americans.

“The recent decisions made by President Trump and his advisors are more than mere actions which will prevent those fleeing the horrifying conditions of war from entering our country. They are baldly discriminatory decrees that undermine our core American values.

“To our Muslim brothers and sisters who may feel targeted by the current administration’s efforts, I stand in solidarity with you and will fight in the Legislature to ensure that your safety and your rights will be protected in Washington state.”

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    Washington is healthier under the ACA – don’t turn back the clock

Washington is healthier under the ACA – don’t turn back the clock

January 16th, 2017|

From the Seattle Times

Nearly 800,000 people in our state who signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act no longer must fear a diagnosis of a chronic illness, because they now have coverage to help them manage their condition.


IN 2012, nearly 25 percent of the people in Yakima County had no health insurance. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate dropped by more than half, to 11.6 percent in 2014.

By today, it has fallen even further. The residents of Yakima County now make the “top 10” of Washington’s counties for most enrollees in our state health exchange, and more residents there signed up for Apple Health Medicaid coverage than in our 38 other counties. Yet the voters of Yakima County voted for Donald Trump by more than 13 points.

The unintended pregnancy rate in Washington, meanwhile, fell by a full 12 percentage points between 2010 and 2013, and it continues to fall because the ACA provides full coverage for contraceptives as a preventative mandate with no copays. This compares to an unintended pregnancy reduction of just 6 percentage points in the prior 15 years. Unintended pregnancies may result in abortions, so it is no coincidence that since the ACA was passed, there have been thousands fewer unwanted pregnancy terminations. By 2014, abortions statewide decreased nearly 20 percent.

So what does the new Congress intend to do? Speaker Paul Ryan is pledging to repeal the ACA and to include a proviso to defund Planned Parenthood. No one should be surprised to discover that the ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate will be included in the repeal effort, and women will be once again unable to afford the birth control they need to avoid unintended pregnancy. Sadly, more unintended pregnancies will mean more abortions.

We’re told that facts no longer matter, and frankly that is the only explanation I can find to reconcile this paradox: In 2012, more than 15 percent of citizens in 20 Washington counties had no health insurance. By 2014, we had zero counties in our state with uninsured rates higher than 15 percent. The kicker? In 16 of those same 20 counties, the majority of citizens voted for Donald Trump, who had repeatedly and aggressively pledged to repeal health care through the ACA on “Day One” — a day now less than a week away. And there is no viable replacement plan anywhere to be found.

Our state’s hospitals have saved more than a billion dollars in uncompensated care costs since full implementation of the Affordable Care Act because most people no longer show up at the ER, the costliest form of care by far, without insurance coverage. Our private insurance market is healthy and stable with premiums for the most popular exchange plan increasing just 3.9 percent last year. By any objective measure, the ACA in Washington is thriving and successful. Uncertainty and instability will be the first result of a “repeal and replace” policy by the Trump administration. Insurance companies do not function well in that kind of business climate. Neither do hospitals, doctors or patients.

Nearly 800,000 people in our state no longer must fear a diagnosis of a chronic illness, because they now have insurance coverage to help them manage their condition. They no longer are sent home to die from an ER visit with stage four cancer, because treatment might save their lives and they have the insurance to pay for the treatment. They no longer have to choose between paying for expensive birth control, or skipping a month because they have to pay their children’s school fees.

These are the awful choices Washingtonians across our state will face if the ACA is repealed. These are the stakes by which we must govern.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, is a former chair of the Washington State Senate Health Care Committee and was a key player in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State.

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    Washington Work and Family Coalition Announces Proposal for Paid Family and Medical Leave in Washington

Washington Work and Family Coalition Announces Proposal for Paid Family and Medical Leave in Washington

January 11th, 2017|

Parents, Legislators, Workers and Business Owners Kicked Off Campaign to Pass Paid Family and Medical Leave in 2017

OLYMPIA – Today the Washington Work and Family Coalition announced their policy proposal for paid family and medical leave in Washington.

Under the proposed bills, Washington workers would be able to use extended paid leave for events like the birth of a child, a personal health emergency, or to take care of an ill family member, like an aging parent.

A recent poll showed at least 72 percent of Washington voters supported passing paid family and medical leave, and the Work and Family Coalition is looking to the Legislature to act.

“All of us have experienced a family or health crisis for which a couple sick days just weren’t enough, whether it was a premature baby, an unexpected illness, or the failing health of a parent,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D – Des Moines), the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB 5032). “Paid family and medical leave would mean better health outcomes for Washington babies, moms, and families in every stage of life.”

“No family should struggle to take time off in the face of a serious illness or to care for a new baby,” said Rep. June Robinson (D – Everett), the sponsor of the House bill (HB 1116). “It’s time to move forward with paid family and medical leave. Our plan was created with the advice of health experts, worker groups, community organizations, and Washington business owners. This is a solution that works for everyone.”

Beginning in 2019, employees could take up to 26 weeks of paid family leave, which includes caring for a newborn or newly-adopted child or an ill family member, including injured service members. Beginning in 2020, an employee could take up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave, which can be used for the employee’s own serious health condition.

The program would be funded by payroll premiums paid by both employees and employers, costing each about $2 a week for a typical Washington worker – which makes it incredibly affordable for business owners.

“This is an affordable, predictable solution to a problem too many workers – and business owners – face,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. “We’ve done the math, and under this plan the annual cost to cover our entire company for a year would be less than I’m paying for maternity leave for one employee alone this year. This makes providing extended leave more possible for more small businesses.”

Only 13 percent of workers have access to paid family and medical leave, usually high-wage earners, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among lower-wage workers – predominantly women and people of color – the rate is 4 percent. Despite the high costs of infant childcare and pediatricians’ recommendations to breastfeed for at least six months, one in four women go back to work within two weeks of childbirth because they can’t afford to stay home longer. Women in states with paid leave programs take longer leaves and are more likely to be working a year following childbirth and earn more than women in other states.

“Paid family and medical leave helps women and low-income workers keep their job through an emergency, which helps ensure our workforce actually represents our population,” said Makini Howell, owner of Plum Bistro in Seattle. “I’ve been a service employee, and I know what it’s like to work long hours for low pay and poor benefits. I treat my workers differently, and this policy makes it affordable for me to provide extended paid leave.”

Workers and parents from coalition organizations shared their experiences about not having paid leave for family or health emergencies.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had the incredible support of my family, the legal protection of unpaid federal medical leave, and even a financial cushion,” said Terri Calvillo of Tacoma, a member of UFCW 367. “But it wasn’t enough to last through treatment and surgeries. I can tell you that the last thing you need when facing cancer is worrying about losing your job and health insurance. It was the worst experience of my life, and the financial security of paid medical leave would have helped.”

“Like many daughters, I have helped care for both of my parents in the final months of their lives,” said Adriana Hutchings, a MomsRising member in Olympia. “When my mother was dying, I had no access to paid leave. With the cost of daycare for my three children, I literally could not work without the option to take paid leave because financially it didn’t make sense. My family was able to make it on my husband’s salary alone, but it was a challenge. It also meant we weren’t able to save as much for our children’s college funds or our own retirement.”