Gwen Davis
The 34th District Democrats meeting January 8 focused on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State and seeking committee volunteers. Left to right: Marcee Stone-Vekich, chair of the 34th District Democrats; Ted Barker, first vice chair; and Tamsen Spengler, second vice chair.

34th Dist. Dems meeting focused on Affordable Care Act

By Gwen Davis

“What does it say about us, the Democratic Party, when we elect a socialist? What does it say when a union gives up a hard-fought fight to a corporation, even when we have Democrat elected officials? What does it say about us?”

The 34th District Democrats meeting on Wednesday was impactful, turning out around 80 participants, hosted in The Hall at Fauntleroy. While the meeting was mostly upbeat, chair Marcee Stone-Vekich’s early remarks about the Democrat’s recent underachievements, including the Boeing vs. union issue, set a tone.
“I am going to challenge you to get your [self] going,” she said. “We need to put effort into this.”

However, the meeting displayed many moments of smiles. Early on in the evening, participants were warned that there were three committees that needed another volunteer each. Time had run out, and these positions had not been filled.

“Is there anyone right now that can volunteer for these positions?” the facilitator asked.

After a tense few seconds, Doreen Bomar shot up her hand to be on the rules committee. The room burst into applause.

“This is actually the first time I’ve ever volunteered here,” Bomar told the West Seattle Herald.

The other two positions got filled, as well.
The meeting’s keynote program was a panel that provided an update on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Washington State. Members included Lisa Plymate, MD, Emily Brice, JD, senior health policy advisor at the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (WSOIC), Janet Varon, JD, executive director of the Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA) and state representative Eileen Cody.

“I think it’s a great start, but no doubt it can get better if we can work together,” Brice said.

The rollout of the ACA has indeed been grim, panelists stated, with many complications. But things are getting better, and knots will continue to be ironed out over time, they said. Audience members were shown large PowerPoint slides, each detailing specifics of how the implementation was going at this time.
Currently, “we are almost halfway through open enrollment,” Brice said. “One-quarter of a million people are enrolled in Washington State, with six-million on the federal level.”

These numbers, while solid, are short of expected, largely due to the troubled healthcare.gov and wahealthplanfinder.org websites.

However, pride swelled for the ACA at times. When one participant praised the ACA’s regulation that insurance companies could not deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, the room filled with applause.

Participants had around five minutes to ask the panel questions, and to raise concerns.

One participant brought up how when educators tell people to visit the health care site to sign up for coverage, they say “washingtonhealthplanfinder.org”, but what they mean to say is “wahealthplanfinder.org”. This miscommunication contributes to fewer people finding the site and signing up.

Regarding another communication issue, a participant brought up how when creating a password for the website, users have to use three specific symbols. But not everyone understands what these symbols are. Minorities have poor access to computers, he also noted.

Another participant brought up how people’s eligibility to qualify for subsidies and Medicaid is based on income, not assets. This leads to people who have low income but large assets take advantage of the system, he said.

One participant said that “we need to give [the government] a little bit of a break,” given how this is the first time such a huge online initiative has taken place.

Cody weighed in on some of the ACA comments. Seattle Children’s Hospital, “does not have a monopoly on health care,” she said, regarding Seattle Children’s recent lawsuit demanding that all pediatric health insurance plans include treatment options at Seattle Children’s. It’s “ridiculous” she stated, and “is not going to happen.”

Coming up, the district is gearing towards lobby day on Jan. 20. Furthermore, On March 9, legislative district caucuses will be held around the state, and will seek delegates to the Washington State Democratic Party Convention on June 21 in Spokane.

The district also needs organizers for the 2014 LD caucus. Needs include helping with sign-in, tallying, outreach, credentials, publicity and hospitality committees.

The meeting included a short speech from King County Executive Dow Constantine. He was also congratulated on starting his second term. The fiscal status of the caucus was reported to be “in good shape.” Bill Schrier and Cecilia Palao Vargas were presented with awards for their accomplishments.
No formal talk about mayor Ed Murray was discussed.

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