Washington Healthplanfinder Announces Statewide Adventure Tour

Visit one of the base camps at the cities below and speak to someone who can guide you through the sign-up process.

Keep an eye out for the Washington Healthplanfinder adventure van at these times and places:

Nov. 27 | Bellingham, WA
First Friday Shop Local | 4 pm – 9 pm | 1336 Cornwall Ave.

Dec. 3 | Moses Lake, WA
Moses Lake Street Party | 5 pm – 8 pm | Sinkiuse Square on Third Avenue

Dec. 4 | Walla Walla, WA
Farmer’s Market and Holiday Parade | 9 am – 7 pm | 106 W Main St.

Dec. 9 | Tri-Cities, WA
After School Pop-Up with Tri-City Health | Time to be determined

Dec. 10 | Vancouver, WA
Vancouver Mall (outdoor courtyard) | 11 am – 5 pm | 8700 NE Vancouver Mall Dr.

Dec. 11 | Wenatchee, WA
Pybus Public Market | 10 am – 6 pm | 7 N Worthen St.

Dec. 17 | Olympia, WA
Oly on Ice | 3:30 pm – 9 pm | 529 4th Ave. W

Dec. 18 | Seattle, WA
Children’s Home Society in Kent (King County Public Health) | 10 am – 4 pm | 215 5th Ave. S, Kent, WA

Dec. 19 | Yakima, WA
Los Hernandez Tamales | 2 pm – 6 pm | 3706 Main St., Union Gap, WA

Jan. 7 | Spokane, WA
Spokane First Friday | 1 pm – 8 pm | 1318 W 1st Ave.

Childhood Immunization Data Are Concerning For Some Ages

Vaccination rates among preteens fell in 2020

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health has updated the state’s childhood immunization rate data, which shows that many school-aged children missed recommended vaccines in 2020. The decreases in pre-teen vaccine rates are especially concerning. These data are now available on a public dashboard. The update includes 2020 rates by immunization type.

Immunization rates remained steady from 2019 to 2020 among toddlers, young children, and teenagers. But 4 to 6-year-olds saw a slight drop in vaccination rates (around 2 to 3 percentage points), and there were significant drops in rates for 11 and 12-year-olds.

“I’m concerned about how many of our Washington kids are vulnerable to serious but preventable diseases,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts. “We need to get children caught up now on vaccines they missed. They are headed back to school soon, and flu activity often picks up in the fall, so let’s get them protected before they’re exposed.”

Some of the notable drops seen among the 11 and 12-year-olds were:

  • An 11% decrease in Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough) vaccine, from 60.3% in 2019 to 49.2% in 2020. One dose of Tdap is required to enter 7th grade in Washington state.
  • An 8.4% decrease in meningococcal vaccine, from 50.7% in 2019 to 42.3% in 2020.
  • A 5.6% decrease in HPV vaccine, from 42.0% in 2019 to 36.4% in 2020. The HPV vaccine prevents several types of cancer and is more effective when given at the recommended age.
  • A 6.0% decrease in the proportion receiving the 1:1:1 series (1 dose of Tdap, 1 or more doses of meningococcal vaccine, and 1 or more doses of HPV vaccine) from 39.4% in 2019 to 33.4% in 2020.

“August being National Immunization Awareness Month reminds us this is a great time of year to make that vaccine appointment with your child’s provider and get them caught up,” Roberts added. “Providers are taking many precautions to keep families safe during preventive visits. It’s also convenient to protect your older ones against COVID-19 since kids who are 12 and up can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the rest of their vaccines. Let’s get everyone back to school safely after the disruption of the last two school years knowing we’re protecting them from outbreaks of many diseases.”

Dying Patients With Rare Diseases Struggle to Get Experimental Therapies

At 15, Autumn Fuernisen is dying. She was diagnosed at age 11 with a rare degenerative brain disorder that has no known cure or way to slow it down: juvenile-onset Huntington’s disease.

“There’s lots of things that she used to be able to do just fine,” said her mom, Londen Tabor, who lives with her daughter in Gillette, Wyoming. Autumn’s speech has become slurred and her cognitive skills slower. She needs help with many tasks, such as writing, showering and dressing, and while she can walk, her balance is off.

Autumn has been turned down for clinical trials because she is too young.

“It is so frustrating to me,” Tabor said. “I would sell my soul to try to get any type [of treatment] to help my daughter.”

For patients like Autumn with serious or immediately life-threatening conditions who do not qualify for clinical trials and have exhausted all treatment options, there may be another option: seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration for expanded access, or compassionate use, of experimental therapies.

Read the full article from KHN.

A Hospital Charged $722.50 to Push Medicine Through an IV. Twice.

Claire Lang-Ree was in a lab coat taking a college chemistry class remotely in the kitchen of her Colorado Springs, Colorado, home when a profound pain twisted into her lower abdomen. She called her mom, Jen Lang-Ree, a nurse practitioner who worried it was appendicitis and found a nearby hospital in the family’s health insurance network.

After a long wait in the emergency room of Penrose Hospital, Claire received morphine and an anti-nausea medication delivered through an IV. She also underwent a CT scan of the abdomen and a series of tests.

Hospital staffers ruled out appendicitis and surmised Claire was suffering from a ruptured ovarian cyst, which can be a harmless part of the menstrual cycle but can also be problematic and painful. After a few days — and a chemistry exam taken through gritted teeth — the pain went away.

Then the bill came.

Patient: Claire Lang-Ree, a 21-year-old Stanford University student who was living in Colorado for a few months while taking classes remotely. She’s insured by Anthem Blue Cross through her mom’s work as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Northern California.

Total Bill: $18,735.93, including two $722.50 fees for a nurse to “push” drugs into her IV, a process that takes seconds. Anthem’s negotiated charges were $6,999 for the total treatment. Anthem paid $5,578.30, and the Lang-Rees owed $1,270 to the hospital, plus additional bills for radiologists and other care. (Claire also anted up a $150 copay at the ER.)

Read the full article from Kaiser Health News.

Supreme Court Declines to Overturn ACA — Again

The Supreme Court on Thursday turned back its third chance to upend the Affordable Care Act, rejecting a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican state attorneys general claiming that a change made by Congress in 2017 had rendered the entire law unconstitutional.

By a vote of 7-2, however, the justices did not even reach the merits of the case, ruling instead that the suing states and the individual plaintiffs, two self-employed Texans, lacked “standing” to bring the case to court.

“We proceed no further than standing,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the majority. “Neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have shown that the injury they will suffer or have suffered is ‘fairly traceable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ of which they complain.”

The two dissenters in the case, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, disagreed. “The States have clearly shown that they suffer concrete and particularized financial injuries that are traceable to conduct of the Federal Government,” Alito wrote. “The ACA saddles them with expensive and burdensome obligations, and those obligations are enforced by the Federal Government. That is sufficient to establish standing.”

The ruling represented a win not only for backers of the health law in general, but also for Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. As California attorney general, Becerra led the Democratic states defending the ACA after the Trump administration sided with the Republican states’ suit.

Read the full article from KHN.

DOH Launches Mobile Vaccination Service to Support Community Organizations and Increase Vaccine Access

OLYMPIA – On June 1st, the Washington State Department of Health launched a new mobile vaccine service called “Care-A-Van” that will deliver vaccines to communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

DOH is working closely to support community partners and local health jurisdictions to increase vaccine access for priority communities, which include:

  • Counties with higher vaccine gaps by race/ethnicity.
  • Communities with a high rank on the Social Vulnerability Index for COVID-19.
  • Sectors with recent outbreaks.
  • Communities overrepresented in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
  • Demographic groups with lower vaccination rates compared to other groups.
  • Groups not represented or underrepresented in current DOH data systems that have likely experienced COVID-19 health disparities and vaccine inequities.
  • Geographic locations that have not had a visit from the DOH Care-A-Van.

“As vaccination rates increase statewide, we are continuing to analyze where and among which groups of people we’re seeing lower rates so that we can implement more tailored strategies to reach communities where they are,” said Elizabeth Perez, Director of the Center for Public Affairs & Equity at the Washington State Department of Health.

“The launching of the Care-A-Van program is an example of an innovative, community-driven approach to support the tireless COVID-19 vaccination efforts of communities across Washington,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health.  “This first-of-its-kind capability at the Washington State Department of Health level will help ensure we reduce any and all barriers for those who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”

To request a visit from a DOH Care-A-Van, submit a form through the Care-A-Van page on the DOH website at least 30 days in advance of the date you are requesting.