Tag Archives: Washington State

Shocker, not: Health insurers propose over 20 percent 2018 rate increase in Washington state

Obamacare Screw U

At least it’s lower than the 80% increase I had for my health insurance premiums this year.

From MyNorthwest.com: State officials say that health insurers have proposed rate changes for next year that have an average increase of about 22.3 percent.

The insurance commissioner’s office said Monday that 11 health insurers filed 71 health plans for the state’s individual and family health insurance market. In two counties — Klickitat and Grays Harbor — no health insurer filed plans.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says he has been reaching out to insurers to see if one or more will reconsider offering plans in those two counties.

All rates, health plans, and coverage areas are under review by Kreidler’s office and may change before the plans are certified by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board on Sept. 14. Open enrollment for the 2018 individual market starts Nov. 1.

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Seattle redistributes $230,000 of taxpayer money to political candidates in the name of “democracy”

seattle-democracy-voucher

Back in January I told you about a new taxpayer-mandated campaign donation scheme (as one commenter called it) that Seattle voters approved under the guise of democracy.

How Initiative 122 works:

“Seattle voters ensured the city would be the first in the country with democracy vouchers when they approved Initiative 122 in 2015. The “Honest Elections” measure authorized a 10-year, $30 million property-tax levy to pay for the program. People not registered to vote can obtain vouchers as long as they live in Seattle, are at least 18 years old and are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or green-card holder. Each voter will get four $25 vouchers to distribute among candidates in 2017.”

To date, voters approved the sum of $230,000 to be taken from private property owners and redistributed to three candidates.

From MyNorthwest.com: With two months remaining in the primary, Seattle’s one-of-a-kind experiment with publicly financed elections is off to a modest start with three candidates so far having cashed in a total of $230,000 in Democracy Vouchers.

County election records show at-large city council candidate Jon Grant leading the publicly financed candidates with $129,450 in vouchers cashed, followed by at-large council candidate Teresa Mosqueda with $61,225. City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is seeking re-election, has collected 1,597 vouchers for a total of $39,925.

Holmes, who has been city attorney since 2010, said the untested program’s newness meant a learning curve for both voters and candidates. “I was talking more about Democracy Vouchers in the first half of the campaign than I was about the campaign,” Holmes said. “We are the guinea pigs.”

Approved by city voters in 2015, the Democracy Voucher program sets aside a new pot of property tax money to give four, $25 campaign vouchers to the each of the city’s registered voters. Those voters, in turn, can pick which candidates or candidate get their vouchers taxpayer money. In exchange, participating candidates agree to spending caps.

The only program of its type in the country, the vouchers experiment was geared for three primary effects: Taking the big money out of local politics; improving voter participation rates; and bringing new candidates to the process.

So how is it doing? “It’s too early to gauge its success,” said Wayne Barnett (FYI: Barnett’s salary in 2016 was $151,919.81), the executive director of the Democracy Voucher program. “But I would say that so far, it’s working well.”

To date, Seattle residents have returned approximately 16,000 vouchers. But 6,000 of those have not been assigned to a candidate for reasons including that the candidate isn’t yet eligible or that the candidate isn’t running for office at this time. For the current election cycle, the vouchers are only allowed for the two at-large council seats and the city attorney race.

In exchange for public taxpayer money, candidates who opt-in must agree to specific spending and fundraising restrictions. To qualify for the vouchers, at-large council candidates first must gather 400 signatures with a $10 to $250 donation from each. For the city attorney race, each candidate must gather 150 signatures and accept similar donation restrictions.

Candidates also must agree to spend no more than $150,000 in the primary – which ends in August – and no more than $300,000 overall including the general election.

Holmes opponent, Scott Lindsay, is not participating in the voucher program. Lindsay, who is Mayor Ed Murray’s public safety advisor, has raised $27,735 so far, according to state records. But because he is not taking public money, he is not limited in his fundraising for either the primary or general election.

The voucher program started with the passage of Initiative 122, the “Honest Elections Seattle” measure approved by city voters two years ago.

The money linked to unassigned vouchers will remain in the election funds pool for the next election cycle when additional city council seats will be eligible (2019) and the mayor’s race (2021). The fund is expected to collect $3 million annually from the fee that adds, on average, an additional $11 to the taxes on each home.

Holmes said the program is a work in progress.“We’ll be talking to them about what can be improved,” he said. “The turn-around for the money is slow, for example.”

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King County defends safe injection sites as a “public health service”

druge injection

I understand there is an opioid epidemic in the U.S. right now. I would rather see taxes used for a rehabilitation facility than for an injection site. Yet I’m sure it’s much harder to get an addict into rehab than it is to allow them to shoot up.

From MyNorthwest.com: King County (Washington state) health officials took to Facebook to address mounting concerns over planned safe injection sites.

Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin and Brad Findgood, who previously co-chaired the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force, were on hand during the live event hosted by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“These are locations that are public health services, that provide a safe space for people who are already using drugs in public spaces,” Duchin said. “… allow them to come indoors, under the supervision of a healthcare worker, use their drugs and have an overdose reversed if they should suffer from an overdose …”

“Certainly, we don’t believe someone should be pushed out onto the street after they are given clean injection equipment … and told to go inject in an alleyway, or in a restroom of a coffee shop, unattended, where you could die alone when we could save a life,” he continued.

But anxiety over the actual safety of safe injection sites has grown in King County. A Bothell councilmember even started a petition to ban them. It’s those concerns that Duchin and Finegood attempted to address.

Do safe injection sites encourage drug use?

The closest facility to Seattle is in Vancouver B.C. But the safe injection system has been used in Europe for some time, Finegood said. Therefore, there is evidence and studies available to help gauge their effects.

Duchin argued that the facilities don’t increase drug use, rather, they divert current drug use and directly engage users and more efficiently address the problem.

Duchin points out that there were similar concerns surrounding needle exchanges. Now, he says exchanges are a “safe and effective intervention to save lives and prevent disease.”

“I think we are going to see the same thing with these supervised consumption facilities in the United States. We’re just a little bit behind the curve,” he said. “Giving people a safe place to inject who are already injecting in unsafe ways, doesn’t in any way invite more drug use,” he added.

Where will the facilities be located?

What is known is that one facility is planned for Seattle and another for greater King County. But no exact locations have been decided.

“We have no interest in siting these in a community that doesn’t have these problems,” Finegood said. “The idea behind a supervised consumption space is: Where are the problems already happening? Where are people overdosing outside? Where are needles being discarded outside? Where are people dying from heroin use?”

“We have a lot of that information … people are already using publicly. We know that,” he said. “I came across somebody overdosing last week on my walk to the bus. A colleague walked into a Starbucks a couple weeks ago and somebody was overdosing in the bathroom. These things are happening already. This is just an intervention that says, You do not need to use alone. You do not need to be stigmatized, or have prejudice, or discrimination because of your illness. Come indoors, talk to a healthcare worker, and we can help.”

Duchin said there is no timeline for when the safe injection sites will open. He said officials would have liked to have them up and running “yesterday.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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Seattle-area school districts turn to health centers for children

melissa harris perry

What is not mentioned in this article is if parental notification is required for a physician to meet/advise your minor child (especially if they receive family planning services). But I’m sure the lack thereof is on purpose, as noted by the spin of school health centers presented as an academic benefit for your minor children.

From Seattle Times: Evidence connecting students’ overall health with their academic performance has mushroomed in recent decades, such that Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman calls it one of the best-established links in all of social science.

Seattle’s school district, ahead of the curve on this issue, has for 30 years provided health services to kids in two-dozen schools. Now the success of that effort is spreading.

Next fall, Bellevue, Renton and Vashon Island each will open one school-based health center, offering an array of services from annual checkups to behavioral counseling — far more than the school nurses of old used to do.

Nationally, the use of such school-based clinics has increased rapidly, particularly in rural areas where families may lack a regular pediatrician, or might have to drive an hour for children’s basic medical care. Not surprisingly, lack of a nearby doctor results in high absenteeism.

But urban Bellevue has seen a marked increase in the need for such services, too, said Jessica Knaster Wasse, who oversees school-based health centers for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Some 500 students — nearly half of them low-income — attend Highland Middle School, the first site in the district to get its own health center. “Most people think of Bellevue as an affluent community, but the demographics have really shifted,” Knaster Wasse said. “The immunization rate at Highland Middle is 76 percent — one of the lowest in the county, and it’s really just an access issue.”

Statewide, there are 35 school-based health centers — most of them in King County — and the driver behind them is academic as much as medical.

A study published in 2010 found that adolescents who used a school-based center for mental health improved their grades, compared to nonusers. And kids were 21 times more likely to get help when counselors were on-site, compared with those whose only access was off school grounds.

In New York City, asthmatic children who used a school-based health center markedly increased their attendance, with fewer trips to the hospital. “Time out of class can really add up, particularly for students who have chronic conditions,” Knaster Wasse said.

At Highland Middle, mental-health counseling will be provided by Youth Eastside Services, and the nonprofit International Community Health Services, which already operates a clinic at Seattle World School, will staff the medical side.

Startup costs for the three new health centers will be covered through a $2 million grant from King County’s Best Starts for Kids levy (aka taxpayers). Each plans to provide counseling offices, a pharmacy and space for mobile dental units.

“We took what we knew was working in Seattle and extended it,” said Michael McKee, director of health services and community partnerships at ICHS. “It’s exciting because we know it improves access.”

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Seattle guidance counselor fined twice by state regulators – and fired as a coach over a decade ago – continues to advise students

raymond willis ap photo

Raymond Willis: Liar guiding children in Seattle/AP Photo

What a role model he is for the students. And very telling about how the unions will go to a great length to protect liars – all to “help young people.”

From Seattle Times: A guidance counselor in Seattle Public Schools has twice been fined by state regulators for selling stocks without a broker’s license. But violating the Securities Act of Washington — and misleading investorsdoes not disqualify Raymond Willis from continuing to advise students at Garfield High School, where he has worked since 2007.

As of last fall, the state Department of Financial Institutions had fined Willis and his nutritional-supplement company, the MiniHYA Corp., $37,000 in penalties and associated legal costs for fraudulently selling securities.

Willis, reached by phone last month at a Miami Beach hotel, would not discuss the matter. “That’s all been resolved,” he said, before hanging up.

Not to the satisfaction of regulators in Olympia, who say Willis failed to show up at his most recent hearing and has not paid the fines.

Michael Galletch, a lawyer representing Willis, said the guidance counselor and his company will make good. The dollar amounts collected from outside investors were very small, Galletch added, each about $1,000.  “Whatever issues they’ve got, they’ve corrected,” Galletch said. “And as they go forward, they will comply. They are not taking any more money in.”

Violating state finance laws does not necessarily bar Willis from holding onto a job providing guidance in schools, according to Nate Olson, a spokesman for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “There are specific offenses that would trigger suspension and generate an investigation,” Olson said. “Fraud is not on that list.”

Short of violence or sexual crimes against a child — which can automatically trigger action by the state — it is up to school districts to file complaints. And so far, Seattle has taken no such action against Willis.

“Mr. Willis is currently employed by Seattle Public Schools. We are aware of the situation and are looking into it and will follow state law,” said a district spokesman in an emailed statement.

Neither the Washington Education Association nor the Seattle teachers union would comment on Willis’ legal situation or whether they support the fact that he continues to guide young people.

In 2014, state documents say, Willis raised more than $40,000 from several dozen investors in MiniHYA, which he said would soon market an anti-wrinkle product. It had been patented, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and subjected to “extensive ‘research clinical studies,’ ” the documents quote Willis as saying. But few of those things were true, investigators said.

“A search of filings with the United States Patent Office does not reveal that MiniHYA Corporation or Raymond Willis had any patent applications pending or that they hold any patents,” they wrote in a statement of charges dated December 2015.

Meanwhile, Willis continued to portray himself as a successful entrepreneur. Last summer, he contacted Florida real-estate agent Chris Rey, who says Willis told him he owned three large pharmaceutical companies and wanted to purchase two luxury properties for his investors — each valued at about $50 million. “That’s a life-changing commission for me,” said Rey, who works at The Nickley Group in Orlando.

Rey got to work. But his suspicions were quickly piqued. “He said his investors were part of the royal family of Abu Dhabi! It was this tall tale that just seemed extremely bizarre,” recalled Rey in an interview.

He began searching online for information about Willis, and the legal proceedings from the Department of Financial Institutions popped up, as did Willis’ day job as a guidance counselor at Garfield. “It floored me — big-time,” Rey said.

Willis has a checkered history in Seattle schools. He was fired from his coaching job at Chief Sealth High in 2005 for improperly recruiting athletes for the girls basketball team. Two years later, the district reassigned him to work as a counselor at Garfield, saying only that the loss of his coaching job didn’t affect his status as a counselor.

There, Willis, who is African American, has worked primarily with black students. There is no evidence that Willis approached students or their families about his businesses.

According to Department of Financial Institutions documents, Willis told would-be investors that by 2018 MiniHYA would be worth $160 million, and a $2,000 investment could net them up to $40,000. They also said he solicited blacks, in particular, as investors, contacting them through an online chat room aimed at African Americans.

One woman earned a salary barely above the minimum wage and had used money from her retirement account to buy into MiniHYA, hoping it would help her “earn enough money from the investment to live independently,” investigators wrote.

It was not the first time Willis has been in trouble with financial regulators.

Documents show that in 2013, after an investor sued him, alleging fraud, Willis agreed to stop selling stock in two other companies — a skin-care firm called AuJeune, and a health-care company called Ra Ghala that was marketing a mammogram machine, a bandage and “a device to pick up pet waste.”

He’d solicited more than $250,000 from 40 investors to fund those two enterprises, according to state regulators, who fined Willis $4,000 for violating securities law, an amount determined based on Willis’ ability to pay, not the gravity of the charges, said Suzanne Sarason, chief of securities enforcement with DFI.

Willis, who earns about $70,000 through his guidance-counselor job, paid the penalty and agreed to stop selling stock. But it did not stop him from advertising himself as a CEO, trusted board chairman and respected health-care industry official — all titles that appear on the CV Willis submitted to real-estate agent Rey.

That paperwork makes no mention of his job with Seattle Public Schools. “Mr. Willis’s work as a guidance counselor is community effort,” said Galletch, the lawyer. “He doesn’t do it as a regular source of income. He does it to help young people.

DCG

City jobs grow out of Seattle homelessness crisis

government solve all problems

In April 2016, I told you how the embattled Seattle Mayor Ed Murray decided to tackle the severe homelessness crisis in Seattle. He hired a “homelessness czar” to “lead and align efforts across City departments, provide oversight and evaluation of data and outcomes, provide strategic guidance on developing policy and protocols, and lead external engagement and communication strategies.”

And, as many could have predicted, the homelessness czar (and the high salary) is not enough to solve the problem. What to do? Hire more people!

From MyNorthwest.com: Two new jobs have been created to tackle the Seattle homelessness crisis. This adds to other positions directly related to homelessness the city created within the last year.

The new positions bring the total number of new homeless-related jobs to six that the city has hired for since August. The two positions currently advertised for will potentially pay more than $100,000 each.

    • Homelessness czar: $137,500 annually
    • Homeless encampment trash/litter program administrator: up to $46.80 / hour
    • Two homeless encampment field operations advisers (x2): up to $42 / hour
    • Executive for encampment response: Between $119,997.36 and $140,000.41 annually
    • Homeless communications director: Between $91,872 and $125,843.76 annually

Adding all that up – at the high end of estimated annual pay – it comes to $537,908.17 in new salaries.

Before Seattle and King County declared a state of emergency over the homeless crisis in 2015, the city spent about $40 million on the issue; the county spent $36 million. After the state of emergency was declared, Seattle put up $5 million more, and the county threw in $2 million more.

Job descriptions

“Executive overseeing the homeless encampment response program” pays between $119,997.36 and $140,000.41. The role of the executive will be to lead cleanup programs for homeless encampments on public property while finding housing for people living in those camps. The purpose will be to move people living in tents into “indoor housing alternatives.”

Communications director will be dedicated solely to the homeless response program. This position pays between $91,872 and $125,843.76 annually. They will handle all internal and external communications around encampment issues. They will work with everyone from the mayor to the council, the police department and more to create messaging around homelessness.

And let’s not forget, in August 2016, the city hired George Scarola to be Seattle’s homelessness czar. Scarola is charged with leading the city’s homeless response efforts, organizing multiple departments and providing oversight and strategic guidance.

Seattle began hiring again in March 2017, this time to solve the homelessness issue. One position was for an administrator for a homeless encampment trash/litter cleanup program. The position is paid up to $46.80 an hour and was listed as temporary. The city also advertised to hire two field positions that would coordinate cleanup of encampments. They are paid up to $42 an hour.

DCG

Unhinged Snowflake Student Screams at a Trump Sign For Two Minutes

From YouTube:

A student melted down at Western Washington University, presumably in response to a President Donald Trump sign, according to video released Friday. The unnamed student screams and throws paint on the ground, as depicted in the video obtained by Campus Reform. “This is what happens when you don’t take your meds,” says Eric Bostrom, the preacher carrying the sign, according to Campus Reform. “This is why I don’t believe in the legalization of marijuana.”

The student’s actions were presumably in response to a sign that said “Trump, borders, laws, jobs, liberty” on one side and “Jesus judges you, repent or perish” on the other side. Bostrom asserts that the student is an art major and, at another point in the video, the student tells someone who appears to be a concerned administrator to “call the police, bitch.” The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the university for comment, but received none in time for publication.”

h/t Twitchy

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