2015 Legislative Session Summary
Last Friday the legislature finally adjourned the 2015 legislative session. At WithinReach, we believe that healthy, resilient families make strong communities and we have been working hard in Olympia throughout the session to break down barriers that prevent Washington families from getting the support they need to be healthy. Even though it was a very long legislative session (the longest in Washington State history), we ultimately emerged with some incredible successes for Washington families!
Universal Developmental Screening for All Children (SB 5317) – The Bright Futures guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal screening of children for autism and developmental conditions. The full range of screenings is currently required to be covered for kids on private insurance, but kids on Washington Apple Health did not have this guarantee. Senate Bill 5317 sought to bring equity to this issue by requiring full coverage of these screening for kids on Apple Health. We are happy to share that the bill passed the legislature, has been signed by Governor Inslee, and received full funding in the final 2015-17 operating budget ($1.422mil total). Children on Apple Health will receive coverage for developmental and autism screenings starting on January 1, 2016.
Apple Health for Kids Hotline Funding & Maintaining a Robust Navigator Program – Buying insurance can be difficult and both the Apple Health for Kids Hotline and the Navigator Program under the Health Benefit Exchange are vital tools that provide the assistance families often need when applying for health care coverage. We are happy to share that both programs received ongoing funding in the final 2015-17 operating budget and therefore will be able to continue to provide much needed support to individuals and families in Washington.
Vaccine Coverage for the Children’s Health Program – In order to make progress toward achieving Washington’s immunization goal rate of 80%, we need to ensure universal access to vaccines. We are happy to share that the funding needed to provide full vaccine coverage for kids on the Washington Apple Health – Children’s Health Program was included in the final 2015-17 operating budget ($2.343mil total).
Thank you to everyone who used your voice to support these critical issues! We could not have done it without you.
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Balancing the Budget & Tough Choices Families Make Everyday
Olympia managed to avert a budget crisis, much to the relief of Washington citizens and many lawmakers. It took months of work, negotiations and two special sessions to come up with a final budget that our legislators could agree to. During the process, furlough notices were sent to workers whose employment depended on state funding. Single parents that relied on childcare subsidies scrambled to make arrangements under already difficult circumstances. Pregnant women, caregivers and parents wondered if they might get the aid that goes a long way in providing much needed nutrition for their families. During these last two weeks of budget negotiations the word “budget” seemed to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. At WithinReach we worried what the looming government shutdown could mean for the most vulnerable families we work with.
We were relieved when we learned a budget passed and a government shutdown avoided. Unfortunately, these feelings of accomplishment and relief did not come to all. There are thousands of families in Washington that are not able to balance their household budgets and provide their families with basic needs. At the WithinReach Family Health Hotline, we talk to these families every day. These families make concessions and choices about what to fund and what to forgo on a daily basis. These are hard choices. Pay the rent or feed the family? They choose to find a way, and sometimes they ask for help.
The families we talk to want to know that they are doing everything in their power to keep their children on track. They want to provide enough food for their children so that they have the necessary nutrition to focus and do well in school. They want their children to receive health insurance so that they will not have to forgo medical care or be strapped with huge hospital bills. They want for their children what we believe all children deserve—access to healthy food and quality health care. The recent budget passing helped to remind us of the important role these government benefit programs serve in the lives of families throughout Washington. They truly help to lessen the financial struggles of families and help parents breathe easier knowing their children have what they need to be healthy. We are happy to answer those phone calls, and help to alleviate the tough choices that many of those families are forced to make every day.