Monthly Archives: February 2020

E-News: Building up our community

February 29th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

One of the best parts of representing you in the Senate is hearing bill ideas from constituents that will help strengthen the communities where we live, and then helping pass them into law.

This week, I’d like to give you a couple examples of those bills, which will directly benefit our local community, as well as update you on my other bills that are moving along toward final passage.

Constituent Ideas

SB 6035 cuts through some red tape that one of our local businesses ran into. Mama Stortini, with local Kent and Federal Way restaurants, was caught between the rules of the Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Department of Labor & Industries. They wanted to hold a wine-tasting session for employees to learn about the wines they were serving. This would clearly be part of their job duties, but employees are not allowed to drink on the job. What to do? This bill will reconcile those rules to allow businesses with liquor licenses to hold educational tastings for employees while they’re on the clock, so long as that activity is kept separate from serving alcohol to the public.

SB 6095 will allow and regulate the Wine Flies Free program — a partnership between one of the largest employers in our district and small wineries in Washington. If you fly to Eastern Washington, go to a Washington winery, and buy a case of wine, you can check it on an Alaska Air flight for no charge. This is a boon for the wine industry and tourism around our state.

Bill Progress

In addition to the two I mentioned above, another 10 bills that I sponsored in the Senate have already made it over to the House and been passed out of committee there. These bills have an excellent chance of being passed into law in the last two weeks of the session.

  • SB 6419 would provide people with developmental disabilities good options for community care close to home, as well as for nursing home care and state centers of excellence.
  • SB 6087 would cap a patient’s out-of-pocket cost at $100 per month.
  • SB 6088 would establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices to see if maximum price caps are needed.
  • SB 6113 would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin, based on the approached used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.
  • SB 6034 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a pregnancy discrimination complaint, from six months to one year.
  • SB 6096 would require the state to consider the potential for labor law violations when contracting with social service providers to ensure state contractors adhere to fair workplace standards.
  • SB 6122 would extend workplace safety protections to temporary workers in construction, manufacturing and industrial engineering, where they face a high risk of injury or death.
  • SB 6170 would modernize the plumbing code for the first time in 45 years, make apprenticeships more accessible, and protect consumers by making certification more transparent.
  • SB 5236 would increase apprenticeship programs in public education and in the health care industry.
  • SB 6217 would give SeaTac’s port commissioners the authority to close a loophole exploited by business to pay workers less than the local minimum wage.

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on in Olympia, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

Bill would lower cost of insulin in Washington

February 27th, 2020|

From the Wahkiakum County Eagle

Bringing down the cost of insulin for people with diabetes is the goal behind two Senate bills and one House bill have been passed by the Washington state legislature.

Senate bill 6087 and House bill 2662 both cap the cost of insulin for patients at $100 per month, while Senate bill 6113 appoints the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium as the single purchaser of insulin in Washington state.

“Currently, the cost of insulin is breaking budgets, threatening lives, and, in some cases, even costing lives,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, the primary sponsor for the two Senate bills.

According to a report by the Health Care Cost Institute, the amount of money spent on insulin by Americans with type 1 diabetes almost doubled between 2012 and 2016.

In Washington state, “those enrolled in the consumer driven health plan pay an average of $206 per month,” on insulin, according to the Senate Bill report on SB 6087.

Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, the primary sponsor of HB 2662, says her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year.

“Those children have to go to bed at night, and not just worry about the stigma of having a chronic disease … they worry about having the money to pay for medication,” Maycumber said.

Some lawmakers opposed the Senate bills because of uncertainty surrounding the reason for insulin price increases. Concerns were also raised by some insurance industry representatives on the effect the caps would have on premiums.

“We need to know what is happening that is increasing that cost to the extent that it is making it impossible for people to pay those prices,” said Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville.

“This would do nothing but pass on these additional costs to other people paying the premiums,” Becker said.

HB 2662 would put a cap on insulin costs for only two years if put into effect.

SB 6087 and SB 6113 were passed by the Senate Tuesday, Feb. 18, with a vote of 34-14 and 28-20, respectively. HB 2662 was passed by the House Wednesday, Feb. 19, with a vote of 97-1.

Provisions in these bills would have to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee to take effect.

By Leona Vaughn

 

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    Patient advocates’ call to action: Speak up now about out-of-control prescription costs

Patient advocates’ call to action: Speak up now about out-of-control prescription costs

February 26th, 2020|

From KOMO News

If you’re faced with rising prescription prices for medication you can’t go without, local patient advocates say this is the time to make your voice heard.

Washington state lawmakers are getting an earful about all kinds of proposed legislation this week as time runs to keep the bills alive.

One of the critical bills at stake will rein in what patient advocates call the out-of-control price increases for insulin – if lawmakers can keep it in play.

The proposed insulin cost-sharing bill (SB 6087) would cap insulin costs at $100 for a 30-day supply for patients with insurance plans that cover insulin drugs.

Despite strong support among many state lawmakers, consumer advocate Cathy MacCaul, the advocacy director at AARP, says if you struggle with rising drug prices, contact your state representatives now.

“The legislature has so many competing priorities,” she said. “There’s so many other bills out there of concern and issue. And we also have the pharmaceutical industry that is fighting these bills. So it’s really important for consumers not to stop raising the issue that affordability of prescription drugs needs to be a top priority for our state legislature.”

The pharmaceutical industry says it offers rebates and other assistance to people who need help paying for medication.

Drug companies opposing SB 6087 and similar drug price bills insist there are other factors and other industries- that play a role in rising drug prices.

People on both sides are making a final push now, because this is one of the bills that advocates say must get a final nod by a key committee this week in order to move on.

By Connie Thompson

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    Washington lawmakers consider restrictions on insulin prices

Washington lawmakers consider restrictions on insulin prices

February 25th, 2020|

From the Spokesman-Review

Eight-year-old Levi Markland told lawmakers Tuesday he’s not supposed to worry about dying, but he does.

Levi has Type 1 diabetes and his family spends up to $1,000 a month on insulin.

Diabetes is unpredictable, expensive and cruel, said Amber Markland, Levi’s mom, who was sitting next to him as they testified at a House Health Care and Wellness Committee hearing.

The Olympia mother of three described the difficulty of “knowing that if you spend one extra cent you might not be able to afford the medicine that keeps someone you love alive.”

Coverage for insulin prescriptions would not be subjected to any deductibles under a bill being considered by the committee, and a subscriber’s out-of-pocket expenses for insulin couldn’t top $100 a month starting Jan. 1. The Health Care Authority would also be required to monitor the price of insulin in Washington.

Around 90,000 residents filled 771,000 insulin prescriptions in 2018, a 15% increase since 2014, according to the All Payer Claims Database, and that data doesn’t account for people on Veterans Administration and some self-insured plans.

“It is a life-and-death issue, and we can do something about it,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, the bill’s sponsor.

Health plans could submit a request for a $5 increase to out-of-pocket expenses for every $100 increase of insulin starting on Jan. 1, 2022, according to the bill.

Cathy McCaul, AARP advocacy director, said that 70% of Washington residents they polled found it difficult to pay for medication, including insulin.

Kevin Wren, chapter leader of Washington Insulin For All, said he has rationed his insulin his whole life, whether he had insurance or was unemployed, leading to other health complications.

“All diabetics need our insulin,” he said. “Without it, our food is poison and we die in a couple of days without it – painfully.”

Amber said everyone needs insulin to live but most people manufacture their own, internally. Levi has to pay for his.

“Pharmaceutical companies put a price tag on Levi’s life,” she said.

Levi urged committee members to pass the bill so families like his can “live with less worry and more time to love each other.”

The bill already passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote and is scheduled for a committee vote Thursday.

By Daisy Zavala

Keiser releases statement on sports betting bill

February 24th, 2020|

After the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee today heard and passed HB 2638, which would legalize and regulate some sports betting in tribal facilities, committee chair Karen Keiser released the following statement:

“I myself am not a great fan of either sports or betting. Gambling brings with it the threat of addiction and corruption. That’s why it’s wise for our state to take a very small first step and to work with our trusted partners who have shown their ability to contain the problem of addiction and thwart the threat of corruption.

“This limited first step toward allowing sports betting in Washington will begin to combat the illegal betting that is already going on. Just as with cannabis in 2012, we are taking a careful step to bring sports betting aboveboard, where it can be tightly regulated to reduce harm.”

E-News: Halftime report

February 21st, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

With just three weeks left in the legislative session, we are hitting our stride for the sprint to the finish. We have already accomplished a lot, passing bills based on carefully collected data, allowing us to establish evidence-based practices.

Here are a few highlights.

The Senate passed three of my bills to curb out-of-control prescription drug prices. These bills are the result of data collected in a multi-year effort that began with the All Payer Claims Database that we set up several years ago as well as last year’s prescription drug price transparency legislation. You can learn more about the bills and our long-term efforts by watching this week’s Inside Olympia.

  • SB 6087 would cap the out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month.
  • SB 6088 would establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices to see if maximum price caps are needed.
  • SB 6113 would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin, based on the approached used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.

In addition, the Senate passed my bill, SB 6419, which marks a turning point in the long debate about rehabilitation centers for people with developmental disabilities. All parties got together, and we found a way forward that makes services more available, more appropriate, and more comprehensive while preserving vital funding. For the first time in 40 years, we have a path that will provide people with options for community care close to home, as well as for nursing home care and state centers of excellence.

Of the 50 bills that moved out of the Labor & Commerce Committee, the Senate has passed 27, all with strong bipartisan support. A few highlights include:

  • SB 6034 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a pregnancy discrimination complaint from six months to one year.
  • SB 5473 would study exceptions to current unemployment insurance law to allow workers who become unemployed due to family caregiving responsibilities to collect benefits. The benefits could also be allowed for workers whose job duties increase substantially, or whose working conditions change significantly with no increase in pay.
  • SB 6096 would require the state to consider the potential for labor law violations when contracting with social service providers to ensure state contractors adhere to fair workplace standards.
  • SB 6122 would extend workplace safety protections to temporary workers in construction, manufacturing and industrial engineering, who face a high risk of injury and death.
  • SB 6440 would reduce the burden placed upon injured workers subjected to independent medical examinations in workers compensation cases. It would require the exams to occur in a location convenient to the injured worker, eliminate no-show fees if a worker gives at least five days’ notice, and establish a work group to improve the exam process.
  • SB 6473 would restrict the use of asbestos in construction, improve labeling requirements, and require safer management of known installations of asbestos.
  • SB 6170 would modernize the plumbing code for the first time in 45 years, make apprenticeships more accessible, and protect consumers by making certification more transparent.
  • SB 5236 would increase apprenticeship programs in public education and in the health care industry.
  • SB 6217 would give SeaTac’s port commissioners the authority to close a loophole exploited by business to pay workers less than the local minimum wage.
  • SB 6261 would strengthen our agricultural sector by holding farm labor contractors accountable for their recruiting practices.

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on in Olympia, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

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    Strong showing for labor bills in first half of legislative session

Strong showing for labor bills in first half of legislative session

February 20th, 2020|

Halfway through the legislative session, the state Senate has passed a wide array of legislation to help working families by raising workplace standards and expanding collective bargaining rights.

“The bills we have passed will go a long way toward making Washington a better place to work,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. “We’ve taken on gender bias, restrictions on bargaining, and worker safety. And we’re not done yet.”

Of the 50 bills that moved out of the Labor & Commerce Committee, the Senate has passed 27, many with significant bipartisan support. A few highlights include:

  • SB 6034 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a pregnancy discrimination complaint from six months to one year.
  • SB 5473 would study exceptions to current unemployment insurance law to allow workers who become unemployed due to family caregiving responsibilities to collect benefits. The benefits might also be allowed for workers whose job duties increase substantially, or whose working conditions change significantly, with no increase in pay.
  • SB 6096 would require the state to consider the potential for labor law violations when contracting with social service providers to ensure state contractors adhere to fair workplace standards.
  • SB 6122 would extend workplace safety protections to temporary workers in construction, manufacturing and industrial engineering, who face a high risk of injury and death.
  • SB 6440 would reduce the burden placed upon injured workers subjected to independent medical examinations in workers compensation cases. It would require the exams to occur in a location convenient to the injured worker, eliminate no-show fees if a worker gives at least five days’ notice, and establish a work group to improve the exam process.
  • SB 6473 would restrict the use of asbestos in construction, improve labeling requirements, and require safer management of known installations of asbestos.
  • SB 6170 would modernize the plumbing code for the first time in 45 years, make apprenticeships more accessible, and protect consumers by making certification more transparent.
  • SB 5236 would increase apprenticeship programs in public education and in the health care industry.
  • SB 6217 would give SeaTac port commissioners the authority to close a loophole exploited by business to pay workers less than the local minimum wage.
  • SB 6261 would strengthen our agricultural sector by holding farm labor contractors accountable for their recruiting practices.
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    Washington State Bill Would Expand Opportunity To Make A Pregnancy Discrimination Complaint

Washington State Bill Would Expand Opportunity To Make A Pregnancy Discrimination Complaint

February 19th, 2020|

From Babygaga

Washington state bill working its way through state Senate could give women an extension to file a pregnancy discrimination complaint.

Late last week, Senate Bill 6034 passed with a vote of 38-9. This vote count was a bipartisan majority. With this successful vote, this bill will now move to Washington state’s House of Representatives for a vote there.

If successful, this bill would help update the already existing Washington Law Against Discrimination. Currently, women who feel that they’ve experienced pregnancy discrimination at work only have six months to file a complaint with the Washington Human Rights Council. But if this bill were to become law, a woman would have a whole year to file a complaint instead.

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“It takes nine months or more to have a baby, but right now, expectant mothers only have six months to file a discrimination complaint. That doesn’t make sense,” explained the bill’s sponsor, Senator Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines).

The subject of pregnancy discrimination continues to be a hot button issue around the world. More and more women continue to reveal that they’ve been victims of pregnancy discrimination- both past and present. This is perhaps an even bigger issue in the United States, where many cases continue to pop up and gain traction.

Will this bill pass and become law in Washington state? It’s hard to tell yet. But between the growing issue of pregnancy discrimination and the bill’s strong support from both sides of the political spectrum, things look good so far. While some may worry that things could take a turn for the worst, others remain optimistic that Senate Bill 6034 will become a law.

By Elizabeth Sarah Larkin

February 19th, 2020|

From the Washington State Wire

Several bills passed in the Senate Tuesday, covering a wide array of issues related to criminal justice, health care and families on public assistance. These bills all now head to the House  in the coming weeks as the legislative session reaches month two. Here’s a rundown of some of the bills that passed in the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 6478 seeks to reduce the penalty to those who don’t meet current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) requirements so as not to punish children of TANF recipients who fall out of compliance. These families would get their TANF assistance reduced by 40 percent if they don’t try to find work or participate in workforce training programs for two months. Under current regulations, these recipients get their TANF benefits suspended completely if they don’t meet the requirements. The bill also stipulates that families will lose their TANF benefits if they don’t meet the new requirements for 12 months.

Senate Bill 6442 would ban the operation of private, for-profit prisons in the state, as well as prohibiting the Department of Corrections (DOC) from contracting with these prisons. The bill also limits the circumstances under which the state can transfer an inmate from a Washington facility to an out-of-state private prison or detention facility. According to the text of the bill, the legislature found that for-profit prisons prioritize shareholder profits over the provision of health care, safety and nutrition to inmates, among other basic human needs, and that the operation of private prisons runs counter to the state’s mandate to ensure health, safety and welfare of those incarcerated in the state’s criminal justice system. If the bill passes, Washington would join 22 other states in banning for-profit prisons.

Senate Bill 5488 would allow judges greater discretion when deciding cases involving adult defendants who are charged with committing a crime while under age 18. The bill grants judges the authority to consider the defendant’s age, lack of sophistication, susceptibility to peer pressure and age at the time the crime was committed. Judges overseeing these types of cases could refrain from imposing the mandatory sentencing requirements after considering the circumstances surrounding a defendant’s youth at the time the crime was committed, allowing the judge to impose a lesser sentence than what law requires.

Senate Bill 6638 would permit the Health Care Authority to restore an inmate’s Medicaid benefits up to 90 days before release from incarceration, and offers reentry services as an optional benefit under coverage provided by the Community Behavioral Health Services Act. Providing these benefits to incarcerated people about to be released helps them transition back into society, according to a press release from the Sen. Claire Wilson’s office. The bill would also require community behavioral health agencies to extend care services to people recently released from incarceration after committing a crime exacerbated by mental health.

Three different bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33rd District) passed Tuesday that would all lower prescription drug prices. Senate Bill 6087 would limit the cost of insulin to $100 a month for patients paying for the drug out-of-pocket and requires the Health Care Authority (HCA) to keep tabs on the price of insulin. Also targeting the cost of insulin, Senate Bill 6113 would align the state’s purchasing process for insulin with the process used to buy childhood vaccines. That bill would form a work group to put together a purchasing strategy that would allow the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium to be the single purchaser of insulin in the state. Senate Bill 6088 would form a prescription drug affordability board to find out if price caps are necessary on drug prices and drug price increases. This board would identify brand-name drugs and treatments priced above $30,000 a year and those that have a price increase of more than $3,000 in a 12-month period. This board would also target similar drugs that cost less than 15 percent of the price of the brand drug, as well as generic drugs that cost more than $100 a month.

By Madeline Shannon

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    Washington state House considers bills to curb insulin prices

Washington state House considers bills to curb insulin prices

February 19th, 2020|

From the Seattle Times

Washington House and Senate lawmakers have passed four major bills that could provide relief to residents paying exorbitant prices for prescription drugs, with a focus on insulin.

Those bills — which would cap prices for the diabetes drug and create a centralizing purchasing program for insulin — cleared a key hurdle in Olympia on Wednesday, the deadline for bills to pass the chamber where they started.

But just weeks remain in the legislative session until lawmakers must get bills to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Much of the attention now turns to the House, which will consider three bills championed by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines.

The bills will be overseen by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, who is chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

Despite some partisanship in the Senate, Cody said she can “guaran-damn-tee” that the bills will be met with broad support in the House, citing lawmakers in both parties that have been impacted by diabetes.

Meanwhile, a price-cap bill proposed by Republican floor leader Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, has been lobbed over to the Senate.

In a public hearing for the bill, Maycumber described herself as an “amateur expert” on unreasonable insulin prices ever since her son was diagnosed with type I diabetes last year and she was forced to pay more than $1,000 to fill his prescription.

“We proceeded to join a group of parents that is a group I did not want or ask to join,” Maycumber said. “A group of people with children that mourn for the life they could’ve had and proceed to fear for the life they will have.”

Advocates are motivated by increasing prices as well as continued media coverage of diabetic individuals who are desperate for their life-saving medication — including a recent story of people turning to the black market via Craigslist.

Bills that passed

Senate Bill 6088: This bill would establish a drug-affordability board charged with identifying drugs that are excessively priced or quickly increasing in price, and setting price limits for state purchasers.

Senate Bill 6087: Out-of-pocket costs for a month’s supply of insulin would be capped at $100 until Jan. 1, 2023, under this bill. Advocates hope the bill will provide immediate relief while lawmakers figure out a longer-term solution to the crisis. Five Republicans voted yes on this bill, making it more bipartisan than Keiser’s other insulin-related bills.

Senate Bill 6113: Modeled after the state’s decades-old Childhood Vaccine Program, a centralized purchasing program that takes advantage of “bulk discount rates,” this bill would create a centralized insulin-purchasing program. Advocates hope the program could leverage the buying power of the state to drive down costs, but have urged lawmakers to include type I diabetics to the list of stakeholders involved in devising the purchasing strategy.

House Bill 2662: Similar to the approaches introduced by Keiser, this Republican-sponsored bill would create a $100 cap on out-of-pocket costs for a month’s supply of insulin, expiring in 2023. It would establish a work group to figure out how to reduce the cost of insulin, which may entail establishing a centralized purchasing program. This bill was passed overwhelmingly by the House.

Bills no longer being considered

Senate Bill 6110: A more unorthodox approach, this bill would have allowed the Health Care Authority to import prescription drugs from Canada, where insulin can be obtained at a fraction of the price. The bill faced scrutiny regarding importation from a country where the U.S. has no regulatory control, and failed to get out of committee.

Senate Bill 6111: In light of the increasing number of American caravans heading to Canada or Mexico to fill their expensive prescriptions, this legislation would have created a “pharmacy tourism program,” to reimburse state employees for travel expenses. The bill was modeled after a similar piece of legislation in Utah.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday that the state Legislature’s ability to curb skyrocketing prescription drug costs may pave the way for a national solution.

“One of the things I hear the most about here at home is people talking about the cost of prescription drugs,” Murray said. “So I’m really excited to see what our state is doing and whether they can get it passed. I think they may be able to.”

By Claudia Yaw