Monthly Archives: March 2020

Washington’s temporary cap on insulin costs gives state, diabetics time to find permanent solution

March 30th, 2020|

From the Seattle Times

Before the coronavirus pandemic closed most travel between Canada and the United States, a border guard would ask Molly Stenson why she was making a trip to British Columbia just to buy insulin.

Stenson, a Mason County resident with Type 1 diabetes, says officers were usually understanding once she explained that in Canada, Costco sells her lifesaving medication for a fraction of what she would pay in the U.S. — saving her hundreds of dollars a month.

“As long as you aren’t bringing back huge amounts, you’re fine,” said Stenson, 30, adding that skyrocketing prices in the U.S. have led her to ration her medicine. “But I don’t want to push my luck coming back with like 15 vials for a three-month supply.”

From 2012 to 2016, the average price of insulin in the U.S. nearly doubled to about $450 per month, and studies show as many as 25% of diabetics ration their medication — a practice that can lead to kidney failure, blindness and death. But in Canada, Stenson could get her monthly amount for around $100.

Soon, she’ll be able to do the same in Washington. The state Legislature approved a bill this past session to limit out-of-pocket costs at $100 for a month’s supply. Washington is one of few states that have implemented a copay cap. Last year, Colorado was the first state to do so.

But Washington’s cap, which would apply to plans renewed in 2021, is temporary. Many hope state lawmakers can come up with more long-term solutions before the price cap expires in 2023.

The cap is a relief to Stenson, who as a manager of a retail store has health insurance but says the five-hour drive to Canada was still worth the trip.

Despite pushback from insurance companies, including Kaiser Permanente, Regence BlueShield and Premera Blue Cross, the $100 price cap received bipartisan support in the Legislature. Lawmakers heard compelling testimony, including that of an 8-year-old boy whose mother was struggling to afford his insulin.

In Washington, about 686,000 people have diabetes, and an estimated 226,300 rely on insulin. In 2017, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the state, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

“Changes are good that we all know someone with diabetes,” said Colleen Thompson, legislative affairs director for the DOH. “And this disease is forever.”

Thompson also noted that those with diabetes, on average, are hit with higher health-care costs, which can “compete with other costs, such as feeding your family or paying household bills.”

“It could be that the insurance companies might have a little more money to pick up because of that cost cap,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, who sponsored the bill. “I really don’t care at this point.”

Keiser said she’s happy with what got passed, as it creates the “infrastructure” to find more permanent solutions in the next two years. It also calls for creation of an insulin work group, tasked with reviewing and designing strategies to reduce the cost of and total expenditures on insulin in the state

Mel Sorenson, representing America’s Health Insurance Plans, testified against setting price limits for drug purchasers, arguing that price-fixing strategies “despite good intentions, rarely actually work.”

In testifying against a $100 copay cap, a representative for Kaiser Permanente argued that insurance companies, who will have to foot the rest of the bill, may be forced to raise premiums.

A drug distributor or wholesaler will also be on the work group, as will representatives from health-plan carriers and an individual with diabetes.

Keiser said she expects the group members to work in their own interests, but that the state needs their expertise to understand how the health-care system works.

Kevin Wren, a Type 1 diabetic and insulin advocate, will represent people with diabetes and is happy to do so but noted he’ll be the only patient on the panel, in contrast to several seats reserved for those in the health-care industry.

He also argued that while a $100 cap would have prevented him from rationing insulin earlier in life, that price still isn’t low enough.

One study estimated that a year’s supply of insulin could be profitably manufactured and sold for less than $133.

“Manufacturers are still making hookah bucks off of the $100 cap,” Wren said.

As for Stenson, she says she has lots of friends who are Type 1 like her. She says having to shell out hundreds of dollars just to stay alive each month gives them a bond. But a lot of those friends are in states without a price cap, and aren’t able to make the trip to Canada.

And now that border crossings to Canada have been restricted due to coronavirus fears, Stenson is scrambling to figure out how and where to get her prescription, including asking friends in other countries to ship it to her.

“It does frustrate me,” Stenson said. “Something bigger needs to be done.”

By Claudia Yaw

Legislators request unemployment assistance for independent contractors

March 25th, 2020|

From the Bellevue Reporter

The Senate and House Democratic caucuses have requested that the federal government unlock disaster unemployment assistance for thousands of independent contractors in Washington who are losing work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), who authored the letter, said:

“The American workplace has changed and thousands of workers who are independent contractors—from hairdressers to high tech coders—do not qualify for unemployment benefits,” Keiser said in a Washington State Senate Democrats news release on March 24. “During this public health crisis that is a hardship they should not be forced to endure.”

The full text of the letter:

Dear Members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation:

In these uncertain times, we need to act to protect all workers, especially those who don’t have access to unemployment insurance assistance. These workers include those considered by employers to be independent contractors in the gig economy and those who are self-employed. We are hearing from these workers about the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This threatens their livelihoods and the strength of the broader economy.

Therefore, on behalf of the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses, we ask the Congressional Delegation to work with the Administration to ensure that Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) can be applied to pandemics in the same manner as to natural disasters when a federal emergency is declared. This will enable more Americans to have access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) without some of the standard eligibility requirements.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance would provide financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster and who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

When a major disaster has been declared by the President, DUA is generally available to any unemployed worker or self-employed individual who lived, worked, or was scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time of the disaster; and who, due to the disaster:

* no longer has a job or a place to work

* cannot reach the place of work

* cannot work due to damage to the place of work

* cannot work because of an injury caused by the disaster.

DUA benefits are payable to individuals for up to 26 weeks after the date the disaster was declared by the President.

While the President approved Washington’s request to declare a major disaster in Washington related to COVID-19, the Administration is still considering the request to activate DUA as part of the declaration. We urge the Congressional Delegation to request the Administration unlock these vital benefits for our workers and businesses.

We understand the tremendous challenges you face in responding to the coronavirus crisis. Access to these additional benefits will make sure businesses and workers have a greater ability to get through this challenging situation. Thank you for considering this path to extend a safety net for our constituents who are considered independent contractors and who are self-employed and shore up our country’s economy during this uncertain time.

Sincerely,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Labor & Commerce Committee

Representative Mike Sells

Chair, Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

Senator Andy Billig

Majority Leader, State Senate

Representative Laurie Jenkins

Speaker, State House of Representatives

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    WA Legislators request federal disaster unemployment assistance for independent contractors

WA Legislators request federal disaster unemployment assistance for independent contractors

March 23rd, 2020|

The Senate and House Democratic caucuses have requested that the federal government unlock disaster unemployment assistance for thousands of independent contractors in Washington who are losing work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), who authored the letter, said: “The American workplace has changed and thousands of workers who are independent contractors—from hairdressers to high tech coders—do not qualify for unemployment benefits. During this public health crisis that is a hardship they should not be forced to endure.”

The full text of the letter is here:

Dear Members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation:

In these uncertain times, we need to act to protect all workers, especially those who don’t have access to unemployment insurance assistance. These workers include those considered by employers to be independent contractors in the gig economy and those who are self-employed. We are hearing from these workers about the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This threatens their livelihoods and the strength of the broader economy.

Therefore, on behalf of the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses, we ask the Congressional Delegation to work with the Administration to ensure that Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) can be applied to pandemics in the same manner as to natural disasters when a federal emergency is declared. This will enable more Americans to have access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) without some of the standard eligibility requirements.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance would provide financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster and who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

When a major disaster has been declared by the President, DUA is generally available to any unemployed worker or self-employed individual who lived, worked, or was scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time of the disaster; and who, due to the disaster:

  • no longer has a job or a place to work; or
  • cannot reach the place of work; or
  • cannot work due to damage to the place of work; or
  • cannot work because of an injury caused by the disaster.

DUA benefits are payable to individuals for up to 26 weeks after the date the disaster was declared by the President.

While the President approved Washington’s request to declare a major disaster in Washington related to COVID-19, the Administration is still considering the request to activate DUA as part of the declaration. We urge the Congressional Delegation to request the Administration unlock these vital benefits for our workers and businesses.

We understand the tremendous challenges you face in responding to the coronavirus crisis. Access to these additional benefits will make sure businesses and workers have a greater ability to get through this challenging situation. Thank you for considering this path to extend a safety net for our constituents who are considered independent contractors and who are self-employed and shore up our country’s economy during this uncertain time.

Sincerely,

Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Labor & Commerce Committee

Representative Mike Sells
Chair, Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

Senator Andy Billig
Majority Leader, State Senate

Representative Laurie Jinkins
Speaker, State House of Representatives

Full text in pdf form: Request for Disaster Unemployment Assistance

E-News: Coronavirus – steps the state is taking to help

March 12th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

The Legislature is taking this health crisis extremely seriously. We quickly appropriated $100 million to fund our state’s response, including monitoring, testing and support for local health departments.

To minimize public health risk, Governor Inslee has prohibited most large events of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and Public Health — Seattle & King County has issued health and safety guidelines that must be followed by the organizers of smaller public gatherings.

State agencies have announced measures to help people and businesses whose lives are disrupted. The governor’s office has assembled a central list of resources here. Below are some of the most important changes that can help you.

Worker and employer assistance

  • If an employer temporarily shuts down operations because of coronavirus, workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits and the employer may receive relief of benefit costs.
  • If workers are exposed to coronavirus and asked to isolate or quarantine by a doctor or health official, they may receive unemployment benefits while they are temporarily away from work. A bill passed recently by the Legislature waives the requirement that people in this situation must be actively searching for work.
  • If workers fall seriously ill and are forced to quit, they cannot collect unemployment benefits while they are seriously ill but may be eligible once they recover and are able and available for work.
  • If employers file their tax reports late, pay their taxes late, or miss deadlines as a result of coronavirus, the penalties have been made more lenient.

Health care coverage 

  • In response to the spread of coronavirus, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange has opened a special enrollment period for health insurance through April 8. You can call 1-855-923-4633 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Insurance assistance 

  • The Insurance Commissioner has required all insurance plans to cover coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing and no prior authorization requirement for people who meet the CDC criteria for testing.
  • He has also required insurance plans to allow enrollees to refill their prescriptions early one time in order to maintain an adequate supply.

School updates

Several schools around the state, including some in Kent, have closed, but many remain open. This is a quickly moving situation, and the latest updates will be reflected on individual school websites or here.

Protect your health and your loved ones

First of all, if someone you know has a fever and non-acute respiratory distress, they should call their doctor – not go to the clinic or hospital. Symptoms to watch for are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The best preparations are to prevent infection with simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (singing happy birthday twice).
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue (not your hands).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than giving hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

If you have symptoms and do not have a doctor to call, you can call the King County coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 or the Washington State Department of Health call center at 1-800-525-0127.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore

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    Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

March 10th, 2020|

From the Kent Reporter

With final Senate votes Monday, two bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, to curb sharply rising prescription drug prices have now passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support and will go to the governor for his signature.

“Prescription drug costs are out of control,” Keiser said. “Our constituents can’t wait. The taxpayers can’t wait. This is a major step forward to cut the prices that patients have to pay.

“We have a responsibility to keep vital prescriptions affordable. I’ve been working for months with a broad range of stakeholders on this legislation, and I’m pleased that it has attracted bipartisan support.”

The bills that the Senate passed today take on insulin costs as well as costs for the most expensive prescriptions and those that are increasing in price the fastest.

SB 6087 will cap out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month. It passed unanimously on a vote of 48-0.

SB 6088 will establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices and price increases to shine a spotlight on areas where pharmaceutical companies are putting profits ahead of people’s health. It passed on a vote of 31-17.

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board will determine whether the costs of a high-priced drug significantly exceed the value it provides to patients. If the board determines that the cost is not excessive, then it will simply recommend ways to make the drug more accessible to patients. If the board determines that the cost is excessive, it will ask the drug manufacturer to reduce the cost of the drug. If the manufacturer refuses, the board will post online the value that it calculates the drug actually has.

In addition, the bill requires the board to provide the newly created Health Care Cost Transparency Board (HB 2457) with tools to establish cost growth benchmarks for prescription drugs.

A third Keiser proposal, SB 6113, would have created a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines. It did not pass, but the policy was incorporated in amended form into HB 2662. That bill creates the Total Cost of Insulin Work Group, which will examine various strategies to bring down the cost of insulin long-term, including the possibility of creating a central purchasing plan.

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    Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

March 9th, 2020|

With final Senate votes today, two bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) to curb sharply rising prescription drug prices have now passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support and will go to the governor for his signature.

“Prescription drug costs are out of control,” said Keiser. “Our constituents can’t wait. The taxpayers can’t wait. This is a major step forward to cut the prices that patients have to pay.

“We have a responsibility to keep vital prescriptions affordable. I’ve been working for months with a broad range of stakeholders on this legislation, and I’m pleased that it has attracted bipartisan support.”

The bills that the Senate passed today take on insulin costs as well as costs for the most expensive prescriptions and those that are increasing in price the fastest.

SB 6087 will cap out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month. It passed unanimously on a vote of 48-0.

SB 6088 will establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices and price increases to shine a spotlight on areas where pharmaceutical companies are putting profits ahead of people’s health. It passed on a vote of 31-17.

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board will determine whether the costs of a high-priced drug significantly exceed the value it provides to patients. If the board determines that the cost is not excessive, then it will simply recommend ways to make the drug more accessible to patients. If the board determines that the cost is excessive, it will ask the drug manufacturer to reduce the cost of the drug. If the manufacturer refuses, the board will post online the value that it calculates the drug actually has.

In addition, the bill requires the board to provide the newly created Health Care Cost Transparency Board (HB 2457) with tools to establish cost growth benchmarks for prescription drugs.

A third Keiser proposal, SB 6113, would have created a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.  It did not pass, but the policy was incorporated in amended form into HB 2662. That bill creates the Total Cost of Insulin Work Group, which will examine various strategies to bring down the cost of insulin long-term, including the possibility of creating a central purchasing plan.

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    AARP applauds passage of bills aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs

AARP applauds passage of bills aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs

March 7th, 2020|

From the Washington State Wire

Bills aimed at making prescriptions drugs more affordable passed in both the House and Senate today.

AARP Advocacy Director Cathy MacCaul released the following statement in response to today’s Senate Passage of House Bill 2662, and House passage of Senate Bill 6087 and Senate Bill 6088.

Today’s strong bipartisan passage of House Bill 2662 by the Senate, and House passage of Senate Bills 6087 and 6088 shows Washington legislators are choosing to put their constituents’ interests ahead of pharmaceutical company greed.

For too long, Washingtonians have been struggling to afford the lifesaving medications they need, while big drug companies continue to rake in billions. Even though insulin has been around for almost a century, the cost of the diabetes drug has skyrocketed in recent years, nearly tripling between 2002 and 2013, according to a study from the American Diabetes Association.

We commend Representative Jacquelin Maycumber (R-7) and Senator Karen Keiser (D-33) for their leadership, and all those who voted for the measure for taking a stand against drug company price gouging. House Bill 2662 will cap out-of-pocket costs to patients for insulin at $100 per month, and will create a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.  Senate Bill 6087 will likewise cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 per month.

According to a recent AARP survey, nearly half of Washington adults who report using insulin for themselves or a family member say their out-of-pocket spending on insulin has increased in the last four years.  As a result, about 20 percent (of respondents or their family) have had to make adjustments such as cutting back on necessities like food, fuel and electricity (24%), taking less medication than what is prescribed (21%), or skipping a dose to save money (18%).

Those types of decisions are a life and death gamble for people like Tina Ghosn from Snoqualmie. Ghosn has three children with type 1 diabetes. Even with good employer insurance, insulin costs her family $500 a month out of pocket. Ghosn says that over the years, they’ve spent upwards of $30,000 out of pocket on the drug.

‘The pharmaceutical companies are holding people hostage at this point because there’s nothing we can do except pay the money,’ said Ghosn. ‘Without insulin, my kids would die. You can’t live without insulin so it’s never a choice.”

AARP is also applauding today’s House passage of Senate Bill 6088 creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. This Board will give our state the ability to evaluate drug prices and set limits on how much certain payers, including state agencies, will pay for high-cost prescription medications. If the cost of select medications exceed certain thresholds, the Board will have the opportunity to conduct an affordability review, which would require manufacturers to justify the price increase or high launch price.

Washingtonians have been speaking out loud and clear about the need for prescription drug cost relief, and the passage of these bills shows their elected lawmakers are listening. We commend them for their support, and look forward to Governor Inslee signing the measures in to law.” 

By Michael Goldberg

Legislature Addresses High Cost of Insulin

March 6th, 2020|

From the Western Front

The Washington state legislature passed four major bills on Wednesday, Feb. 19 that would address the high costs of insulin and other prescription drugs.

The next step is to pass the bills through the House of Representatives, where it will then go to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, Sen. Karen Keiser said. Kaiser said the bills, if passed, would most likely take effect in July.

Two of the bills would cap the cost of a month’s supply of insulin at $100. The bills would expire on Jan. 1, 2023, and are meant to provide short-term relief while the legislature searches for a long-term solution.

Another one of the bills would create a drug affordability board to identify prescription drugs at high prices and set price limits on these drugs for state purchasers.

“[The drug affordability board would] look at the way that the different pieces of the market work together to increase prices and push back on the different players,” Keiser said.

For example, people with multiple sclerosis pay $70,000 to $90,000 a year for their medications, Keiser said.

“Those are the kinds of really extraordinary costs that we could focus in on and put pressure on drug manufacturers,” Keiser said.

The last bill would create a centralized insulin-purchasing program, modeled after the state’s current Childhood Vaccine Program. The program would try to use the state’s purchasing power to lower drug costs, Keiser said.

Hannah Jones, a Type 1 diabetic and president of Western’s chapter of the College Diabetes Network, supports the bills. Jones said she often worries about what will happen when she ages out of her parent’s insurance program and has to pay for insulin herself.

“I was paying $250 a month for insulin. For some people that’s like a paycheck,” Jones said. “You’re damaging your livelihood just because you can’t afford a simple drug to keep you alive.”

Megan Whitsell, the program coordinator for PeaceHealth’s Nutrition & Diabetes Clinic, said they have a lot of clients who cross the border to Canada to buy insulin at a cheaper cost. She also said there were a lot of clients who bought insulin at Walmart for about $25.

This can be problematic because the Walmart brand of insulin does not work as well as the insulin the doctor prescribes, Whitsell said. She added that taking a different kind of insulin can change the way a person manages their diabetes and there can be risks for some patients.

A study conducted at Yale Diabetes Center from June to August 2017 surveyed patients asking if they had rationed their insulin in the past six months. Out of the 199 people, 51 — around one in four — said they had rationed their insulin before.

“The more people have to ration their insulin and have their blood sugar not under very good control, it just sets them up for all these other health problems,” said Tracy Rabin, a researcher in the study and associate director of Yale’s Office of Global Health.

Poor blood sugar can damage the eyes, kidneys and nerves, which can lead to blindness, kidney disease and foot pain, Rabin said. Uncontrolled diabetes puts people at a higher risk for having strokes and heart attacks.

Rabin said the data in the study does not necessarily apply to the general population. Demographics play a role and Medicaid benefits vary from state to state.

“Something [in Medicaid] that is true for patients in Connecticut will not necessarily be the same as in another state,” Rabin said.

Jones said while she supports the bill that would cap insulin at $100, she thinks more can be done by also fighting the cost of diabetes medical devices.

She said without insurance, she would pay about $4,000 for an insulin pump and glucose meter, which both only last about 90 days.

Carly McGuire, a Type 1 diabetic, agreed with Jones and said she would like to see medical equipment costs go down as well, not just insulin.

“I think that people don’t really think about the other expenses that go into it,” McGuire said. “When you’re not helping with the cost of devices and needles, everything else that goes into it, it’s not going to be as effective as it could be.”

McGuire said when she was on injections, she had to test her blood sugar a lot. The test strips that she used were $60 and only lasted about 10 days.

“We, as a country, are not paying attention to pharmaceutical companies sort of raising the prices on these medications that are really necessary,” Rabin said. “Making them unaffordable for people is something that can cost a lot of people their lives.”

By Izzie Lund

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    Pregnancy discrimination bill sparked by Google employee’s complaint passes legislature

Pregnancy discrimination bill sparked by Google employee’s complaint passes legislature

March 5th, 2020|

From The Seattle Times

A bill that was sparked by a Seattle woman’s allegations of pregnancy discrimination at Google passed both the Washington House and Senate with broad bipartisan support and is slated to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 6034 would update the Washington Law Against Discrimination to give a pregnant woman, or new mother, one year instead of six months to file a complaint with the Washington Human Rights Council.

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

Former Google employee Chelsey Glasson resigned at the end of her maternity leave after posting a memo on an internal message board, titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” that was widely read both inside and outside the company.

According to the complaint filed with the state human rights council and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the University of Washington graduate claims she lost her career trajectory at Google when she stood up for a pregnant coworker, then suffered retaliation and discrimination herself when she became pregnant.

“People need to know that pregnancy discrimination is a very real thing that families continue to experience,” Glasson said Thursday morning.

Glasson, who testified in support of Keiser’s legislation, started as a Level 3 user experience (UX) researcher at Google in 2013 and over the next few years was rated “superb” and promoted several times, the complaint says.

When she became a manager, she became worried that a director was trying to “manage” a pregnant employee off the team. She took her concerns to Human Resources, and the director about whom she’d complained began a campaign of retaliation that included poor performance ratings and denial of leadership opportunities, the complaint alleges.

Glasson said that during her second pregnancy, her new director and manager told her they were concerned her upcoming maternity leave would “stress the team” and “rock the boat,” and so she would not be taking on management responsibilities until after her return.

According to Keiser, studies show that mothers are half as likely to be called back for interviews as non-mothers, and mothers who are hired are likely to be offered an average of $11,000 less per year in salary.

Glasson said the bill, which passed its final hurdle Wednesday with a vote of 95-1 in the House, will be helpful to others in her situation.

“What I’ve learned from my experience,” she said, “is that when pregnancy discrimination does happen, it’s incredibly difficult to fight.”

By Christine Clarridge

E-News: Coronavirus update and information

March 4th, 2020|

Dear Neighbors,

As more coronavirus cases are reported in our state, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your information from the most trustworthy sources. Below is information from the Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County.

These illnesses are most severe in elderly and immune compromised populations. Health officials are working as rapidly as possible to identify those in the community who have been exposed, isolate them and get them tested.

What You Can Do

First of all, if someone you know has a fever and respiratory distress, they should call their doctor – not go to the clinic or hospital. A doctor will make an assessment about next steps. If it requires a coronavirus test, the doctor will contact King County Public Health to arrange a test. There are no public testing sites.

If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus but don’t have a doctor to call, you can contact the King County novel coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The best preparations are to prevent infection with simple yet effective actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. (Singing happy birthday twice takes about 20 seconds.)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, sleeve or tissue. (I know it’s hard but try not to use your hands.)
  • Bump elbows with friends rather than hugs or handshakes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, and kitchen areas when food is prepared.
  • Use hand sanitizers when unable to wash your hands.

The Washington State Department of Health has also established a call center to address questions. Given the large call volume, it is best to research general questions online if you have access to a computer. Call if you need advice about what to do if you have symptoms. You can call 1-800-525-0127.

If you develop a fever or respiratory distress, stay home and call for help from your doctor or the King County call center at 206-477-3977.

What is Happening in Washington

We are fortunate in Washington to have expert public health officials and scientists who have experience in responding to pandemics. We can all help by staying informed and following their recommendations.

This is a very quickly moving situation and information is changing constantly. You can stay informed at these pages:

You can find information about how the situation affects school closures here.

What We Are Doing in Olympia

The Senate passed an operating budget last week that dramatically increased funding for coronavirus response with an additional $10 million for public health.

Much more funding is on the way, given the rapidly evolving situation. New legislation was introduced Monday morning by Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Schmick to transfer $100 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to the state Department of Health and Department of Social and Health Services.

The bill has passed the House and we will be acting on it in the Senate today. It authorizes a funding transfer of $100 million into the state disaster response account specifically for coronavirus response. It also allows DSHS to increase nursing facility payments as the department hires more nurses. We will also provide funding to free up more beds in our acute care hospitals for coronavirus patients.

We are near the end of our 2020 session, but if this outbreak turns into a full-blown pandemic, we may be called back into special session to provide additional emergency funding for more services.

Finally, if you are unable to find the help you need from medical providers, the King County public health department or the Washington state Department of Health, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. We will do everything we can to help.

Always,

Senator Karen Keiser

Chair, Senate Labor and Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore