Guest Blogger: Lucy Asdourian, Senior Government Relations Director
After nearly six months in Olympia, legislators finally reached agreement and passed an operating budget June 29th, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown on July 1st. Like many organizations, the AHA leaves Olympia with some amazing victories and some sad defeats.
CPR in Schools Victory
On May 8, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed SHB 1556 into law, ensuring that all high school students will be trained in CPR before graduation! The bill makes CPR education part of health class and will prepare future generations to save a life. The bill also included guidance on medical emergency response plans so that when schools buy or receive AED’s, they will know what to do and how to use them. With passage of this legislation, lifesavers will be ready to act in every corner of the state!
Protecting Clean Indoor Air
In 2005, Washington voters passed the Clean Indoor Air law, making it illegal to smoke in all indoor public places and workplaces. The initiative passed with 63% of the vote and since then has grown in popularity with polls showing 84% support among Washington residents. Over the last few years, we have fought off a bill that would create a giant loophole and endanger countless workers. The bill would allow 500 cigar shops and 100 more lounges to let cigar, pipe and hookah smoking back inside. This session, the bill was back. Polls have showed 71% of Washingtonians opposed the bill. Fortunately our legislative champions stood strong and voted it down on the Senate floor!
Sadly, the Legislature failed to fund Washington’s Tobacco Prevention and Control. This program was proven to help current smokers quit and keep kids from ever starting. When last funded, our state saw $5 in healthcare savings for every $1 invested in the program. Washington receives $732 million from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and tobacco taxes annually, yet $0 are used to protect kids from the dangers of tobacco use and help smokers quit. To add insult to injury, rather than fund this lifesaving program, the budget included a $25 per month surcharge on healthcare premiums for state employees who use tobacco, which has not been proven to help people quit and is more likely to be a barrier to smokers utilizing healthcare and cessation services. We are deeply disappointed that legislators have turned their back on any effort to curb the number one preventable cause of death in Washington.
Affordable Care Act Implementation
Over the last few years we have worked closely with other health organizations to ensure the Affordable Care Act is implemented in a way that works for WA. This session, the legislature needed to take action to provide a sustainable funding strategy for the Health Benefit Exchange. Right at the end of Special Session, the legislature finally passed HB 1947. While not perfect, the bill spreads administrative expenses more broadly, reducing the risk of adverse selection, leveling the playing field to ensure that coverage is affordable for consumers.
We are working closely with the Department of Health and Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition to ensure there are healthy food and beverage options available in state buildings and to the people they serve. Keep an eye on your inbox for action alerts and updates this summer! Over the next few months we will begin to plan for the 2014 session. We will also continue to work to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented in Washington in a way that works best for heart disease and stroke victims.
The commitment and activism from you, our You’re the Cure network, has been just incredible this year! We simply couldn’t do it without you!