Greetings fellow members,
I hope you are surviving our unusual winter weather. In between storms we managed to visit the state capitol in Olympia with our CEO Nancy Belcher and Marketing and Communications Director Josh Kerns for an extremely productive day of lobbying on behalf of our member physicians and the WSMA.
We had the opportunity to visit with a number of key lawmakers and staff members including Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and Sen. David Frockt to advocate for critical health care-related legislation.
There are currently over 200 health care-related bills under consideration in the House and Senate. Many will be merged with others or not be passed out of committee. But the KCMS and WSMA have identified several critical pieces of legislation we are prioritizing for the current session that affect our physicians, our patients and our communities:
- Strengthening Washington state’s immunization policy
- We support efforts to eliminate the personal and philosophical vaccine exemption for school, child care, and preschool immunization requirements. Read the WSMA issue brief
- Mental and behavioral health access
- Support funding and policies that provide better care—physical and mental—to Washingtonians. Read the WSMA issue brief
- Tobacco 21
- Support legislation to increase the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21. Read the issue brief
- No B&O tax on physician services
- Oppose a proposal to increase business and occupation tax on physician services. Read the issue brief
In addition, the King County Medical Society is formally endorsing a new bill proposed by Seattle Rep. Gerry Pollet requiring the testing of lead in every school building statewide once every three years. HB 1860 also mandates special filters be placed on all faucets, fountains or other water outlets used for drinking or cooking after elevated lead levels are detected.
We have more from Rep. Pollet in this newsletter detailing the need for this legislation, especially in light of a recent Seattle Times investigation finding 53 percent of schools in South Seattle registered lead readings above what the district considers an acceptable level of exposure.
As many of us know, even low levels of lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological damage to children, including reduced IQ.
Yet most districts don’t test for lead in water despite a 2009 rule by the state Health Department calling for testing because they can’t afford it.
You may recall the King County Medical Society led a coalition of groups in passing a resolution by the WSMA House of Delegates last fall calling for increased funding for lead poisoning testing and awareness. HB 1860 is an important public health measure we stand behind to protect our children. I encourage you to call or email your representative and voice your support for this and our other priority legislation.
I am proud of our increased advocacy efforts and stand with you in raising our voices on behalf of our patients, our communities and our profession. And I strongly urge you to join one of our committees or serve as a delegate to the WSMA annual meeting as we continue to grow and increase our influence as the largest collective of physicians in Washington State. Together we can accomplish great things, and I am humbled and honored to serve as your president during such a period of revitalization and increased relevance for our organization.
Teresa Girolami, M.D.
President, King County Medical Society Board of Trustees