UNINSURED RATE FALLS: A report from state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says that the share of Washington residents without health insurance has been cut in half since 2012. That’s a huge gain. The Affordable Care Act is credited with the decrease.
The uninsured rate was 14.5 percent in 2012, but fell to 7.3 percent (or 522,000 people) last year, Kreidler said. Kreidler’s figures included estimates for statewide coverage in 2015.
Thurston County saw a similar decline — from 14.5 percent in 2012 to 7.1 percent at the end of 2014. This left 18,819 without coverage in Thurston County as of 2014.
In an important development for hospitals and clinics that often subsidize care for the indigent, Kreidler’s report estimated that the value of uncompensated care dropped statewide from $2.35 billion in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2014.
Despite ongoing concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, these are all welcome trends. A large share of the newly covered receive state and federally funded Medicaid under the ACA’s expansion to include nondisabled childless adults and families with slightly higher incomes than before. More than 200,000 also signed up for private plans through the exchange.
More needs to be done to improve the nation’s health care system, but these improvements are real.
OVATION FOR ROGER HORN: Roger Horn served for 14 years on the Olympia Planning Commission, and he was given a standing ovation from the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
Horn is a shining example of how much volunteers contribute on local government boards and commissions. He chose serving on the Planning Commission over going back to college for an advanced degree, and he believes he learned more that way.
We can hope others follow his example; Olympia has openings for people on the Heritage Commission, the Design Review Board, the Arts Commission, the Utility Advisory Committee, and, yes, the Planning Commission. The deadline for applications is Friday.
The rest of South Sound’s communities also depend on this kind of volunteer. Thank you, Roger Horn.
LABOR VIOLATIONS PROMPT UNION FINES: The Service Employees International Union Local 775 Northwest and its political committee agreed recently to pay fines of more than $50,000. That settles charges they violated campaign-finance laws. At issue was the failure to fully report staff time and cash given for political purposes.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson had sued, alleging that SEIU 775 failed to report $1.3 million shifted from the union to its PAC. The suit followed a complaint by the Freedom Foundation, an anti-union think tank in Olympia that espouses libertarian views.
SEIU 775, which represents home care workers, downplayed the violation because its political action committee reported receiving the $1.3 million. But additional staff time and other in-kind help were not reported by either organization.
That led to the $45,806 fine for the union and $6,000 fine for the PAC. Some of the fines were suspended.
The AG’s office also filed suit recently against the Washington State Labor Council over similar failures to report $133,345 of cash or additional in-kind contributions to several PACs. The latter contributions included staff time, postage, Web services, telephones and office space, which the PACs had reported receiving.
A WSLC spokesman described the failures as an “honest omission.” But the Freedom Foundation said the labor groups showed contempt for public disclosure.
The AG has other suits pending against SEIU 925, which represents child care providers, and the Freedom Foundation for its efforts as a nonprofit to promote right-to-work ballot measures in Shelton, Chelan and Sequim.
Political campaigns and donors can get sloppy. Ferguson appears to be doing what the law intends — holding political actors accountable on both sides of the road.
A LOOK INSIDE THE JUNGLE: The recent count of homeless people in Seattle showed a 19 percent increase over the past year. The homeless count in Snohomish County showed a 54 percent increase. Thurston County’s numbers aren’t in yet.
The increases are tragic enough, but recent murders in The Jungle, an unsanctioned homeless camp under Interstate 5 in Seattle, provide a grim view of what lies behind those numbers.
Three juveniles are now charged in the murders. The youngest is 13 years old. The brothers, who had run away from numerous foster homes over the years, were collecting a drug debt for their mother, who lived in The Jungle. The two older boys — ages 16 and 17 — will be tried as adults and sent to their next foster home — prison — from which there is no running away.
A phalanx of officials is now working to clean out The Jungle” We wonder if an equal number of officials will examine how the foster care system may have failed those boys, and what hope there might be for the 13-year-old to find his way to a better life.