Problem with your health care application? No problem at all.

A nurse administers an injection to a patient. 20050121-3987 WASENATE db

A nurse administers an injection to a patient.

As expected, the Washington Healthplanfinder website experienced a heavy influx of activity in the days leading up to the March 31st deadline for open enrollment in health care plans. This high level of traffic, both on the website and at the call centers, caused a few technical problems that may have interfered with the ability to complete the application on-time. According to Healthplanfinder, about 11,000 Washingtonians began applications but didn’t finalize them.

There’s good news for these individuals and families – Washington Healthplanfinder is reviewing incomplete applications. If you didn’t get to finish the enrollment process due to technical difficulties, you may still be able to sign up for health care. In order to have your application reviewed, fill out the form available here.

The folks over at Healthplanfinder will take a look at your application and get back to you within 14 business days. As always, you can find more information at

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Caution re-emphasized in using escalators

An escalator is only as safe as the care and common sense exercised by people who use this iconic conveyance. As a way to remind escalator riders to be careful, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cites the first anniversary of the tragic April 8, 2013, King County Metro escalator death. The department’s press release — L&I calls for greater safety on anniversary of escalator tragedy — notes that more than 60 people have suffered escalator injuries since the death last year at the University Street Station in Seattle.  “People have a lack of understanding how what they’re doing can lead to a hazard,” said Jack Day, chief elevator inspector for the department. “It happens very fast.” Day also pointed out that:

  • People should remember their responsibility to use conveyances safely.
  • Building owners should remember their obligation to make sure their escalators and elevators are well-maintained.

Most injuries happen when people carrying packages or luggage on an escalator lose their balance. Sometimes, too, the crowding and pushing of bad-mannered fellow travelers can actually morph the escalator into a veritable combat zone. L&I states that 70 percent of those 60 injuries since the tragic death could have been avoided if the injured person had only been using the handrail.

You can find more information about rider safety by reviewing details at the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation. Interactive activities for young people and other safety-education materials are featured at this website.

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Police enforcing state law against Texting While Driving

Texting While DrivingFor years, police and traffic safety experts have said texting while driving can be as deadly as drunk driving.

Police across western Washington are driving that message home, with a coordinated enforcement of Washington state laws against texting while driving.

As Officer Bill Wingrove said in this KIRO 7 piece about the effort, “A lot of people do not take it seriously and it’s a leading cause within traffic fatalities and serious injuries here in Washington — 20 percent just in fatalities.”

According to preliminary crash data collected by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, there were 317 deaths from crashes in 2013.

The raw numbers aren’t the whole story. Many crashes involve multiple causes – a drunk may also be speeding, a texting driver may also run off the road.

National studies say 23 percent of all car crashes in America during 2011 involved drivers using cell phones – a total of 1.3 million wrecks.

It is still legal in Washington state to talk on your cell phone while driving if you have both hands on the wheel, meaning you need to use a speaker phone or earpiece.

If you’re caught during this law enforcement crackdown, the fine for texting while driving is $124.

Related posts:

Teens and Texting

Texting while driving: a growing danger

New tech will combat texting while driving

Texting while driving? Tell it to the judge!

Texting while driving


Crash data courtesy of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission.

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New study links sprawl to lower socioeconomic mobility

 In recent years sprawl – the low-density development that boomed in America during the 1990s and 2000s – has been linked to a number of societal problems, from obesity to congestion. However, a new report from Smart Growth America and University of Utah’s Metropolitan Urban Center shows that it may have an even more problematic effect: lowering socioeconomic mobility.

In comparing low-density and high-density metropolitan areas around the country, the researchers found a clear correlation between sprawl and economic stagnation. A child raised in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale was significantly more likely to reach the top 20 percent by age 30 if they were raised in a more dense region.

The report suggests that the American Dream of a big lawn, a white picket fence and a daily commute into the city may actually be contributing to the income inequality problem in our country.

None of Washington’s metropolitan areas ranked among the top ten most or least dense regions. New York City and San Francisco were the most compact, while Atlanta and Hickory, NC were the most sprawling.

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Mental health care or mental jail care?

Mental illness can be a scary thing. And it can strike any family.

But mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, are biological conditions like heart disease or cancer. And they should be treated in a medical setting.

The sad truth is most people with these debilitating mental illnesses aren’t being treated in hospitals or psychiatric clinics, but in our prisons.

In a report published April 8th, the Treatment Advocacy Center notes that jails and prisons house 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness. This is more than 10 times the amount in state hospitals.

The report says treatment in correctional settings is “abominable.” It also states that mentally ill inmates are more likely to become victims of sexual assault and abuse, and they are overrepresented in solitary confinement.

It also costs a fortune. In 2009 Washington paid $100,000 per year to confine seriously mentally ill inmates compared with $30,000 for other inmates.

During the last session, the Legislature took a serious first step toward alleviating this urgent issue. This year, the supplemental budget made a $32 million investment in our mental health care system – helping to give communities the tools they need to treat the mentally ill. While it is a modest investment, it is a start towards alleviating an issue that will only getting worse if left unaddressed.

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