The 2010 Session was the most difficult session I have ever experienced. We had to make deep budget cuts—amounting to more than $5 billion over the biennium, and that meant tough choices when it came to providing health care services. For example, would you choose to fund hospice services for the terminally ill, or would you choose to use the money for preventative screenings for breast and colon cancer? Those kinds of choices made the 2009-2010 budget a very painful process for me.
But despite the tough budget, I was proud to sponsor key legislation to make our state a better place to live and work:
I sponsored the Vaccines for Children bill to ensure that all kids get the childhood vaccines that they need to protect their health, and the public health. Vaccines for measles, whooping cough, mumps and polio are part of our safety net programs. But we had to cut the budget, so we worked to get a public-private agreement with insurance companies and pediatricians to provide the needed vaccines to all kids with a state purchasing arrangement. We were able to save about $60 million in tax dollars by persuading the insurance companies to participate and cover their own kids. (SB 6263)
I also was thrilled to win passage of our safe Baby Bottle bill in 2010 after several years of trying to draw attention to the growing danger of potential chemical exposures for infants and young children. The bill bans the use of a chemical used in the making of plastics known as BPA or bisphenol A, in certain products including baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles. We are among a handful of states leading the way in this preventative approach. (SB 6248)
I worked with my House colleagues to ensure that our local Green River Valley businesses and residents were protected from financial ruin. With the Howard Hanson Dam under serious threat, flood insurance policies were being cancelled and unavailable for purchase at a reasonable price. Although the federal government provides subsidized flood insurance for homeowners and renters, businesses must get additional coverage to cover expensive equipment and buildings. We passed a critical bill giving our state Insurance Commissioner the right to intervene and ensure accessible flood insurance for all businesses and residents in the threatened area. (HB 2560/SB 6240)
Making health insurance more affordable for the smallest of small businesses took a step forward this year with passage into law of my bill to make sole owners and single propriators eligible for the lower cost small group health insurance policies. These small businesses had been restricted to the more expensive individual health care policies before my legislation was passed. It takes effect next January. (SB 6538)
I have also worked very hard over the past few years to make health care reform a reality. My goal with health care reform is to make health care available to all at lower costs and with better outcomes. That’s a tall order but we are on the right road in our state to achieve real savings by using evidenced-based health choices and by avoiding the financial death spiral that begins when too many people are not able to prevent or manage chronic health problems because they have no health insurance coverage. That’s why one of my bottom line requirements before leaving Olympia this year was to ensure that our state’s Basic Health Plan would remain funded. I succeeded in safeguarding that vital program!