The GOP forces a stalemate in the House, but some lucky bills might sneak by.

EARLY RETIREMENT

What: Surprise! Here's a bill that's actually going to let criminals out of jail. HB 1299 will allow medical release for nonviolent offenders who are ill or old. Individuals benefiting from this gift will be under electronic surveillance, unless it would interfere with their medical equipment.

Who: Rep. Ida Ballasiotes, RMercer Island. Were you expecting someone else?

Chances: Good.

I say: After dozens of bills that treated prison inmates like they were subhumans (and made the Legislature look like it was composed of subhumans), I am relieved to see a crime bill that can be called rational. Unfortunately, the rationale the bill's sponsors have in mind is that it will save those pesky taxpayers money. As for me, I'm glad Grandpa may finally get out of jail.

BILL OF FIGHTS

What: For years health-care activists have pressed for a patient's bill of rights. The bill's current struggling incarnation, SB 5587, guarantees the meagerly insured the freedom to consult with doctors about switching insurance companies; the peace of mind of knowing that doctors will be able to tell their patients the full truth about their conditions; the dignity of a grievance process that includes, if necessary, an independent review; and the right to know ahead of time what treatments and medications the insurance company will and will not cover.

Who: Sen. Lorraine Wojahn, D-Tacoma. In the House it has the support of all Democrats.

Chances: Terminal. The stuffed shirts of the insurance industry apparently have some admirers in the House GOP.

I say: The industry is doing its usual song and dance about how it should conduct business however the hell it wants. In other words, it will continue to cheat customers out of the best possible treatment, and who are we to stop it?

EXTRA: KIDS DON'T COUNT

What: House Republicans won't let the Children's Health Insurance Program, SB 5416, even get a hearing. The bill would add $4 million in state funds to the $8 million the feds have offered to insure 10,000 low- and middle-income kids. The GOP expresses interest in rejecting the federal dollars and limiting spending to $2.1 million to cover 900 disabled kids.

Who: Sen. Pat Thibaudeau, D-Seattle

Chances: Slim, but they'd be better if Health Care Committee co-chair Rep. Linda Parlette, R-Wenatchee, would let this get a hearing.

I say: The Republicans' main argument against this is that subsidized coverage should be reserved for the poorest children. (They don't mention that the poorest children are actually more likely than the kids of the working poor to be covered, because of Medicaid.) If Republicans are so concerned about the plight of poor families, why don't they get off their rumps and do something about it for a change?

LONG-TERM SCARE

What: When the Department of Health and Human Services provides long-term care for an elderly client it doesn't always make clear that it will recoup costs from the individual's estate after the client has died. Hence, widows in Rep. Clements' district (and probably elsewhere) find unexpected liens on their homes after their husbands die. SB 1116 would require DSHS to let clients and their families know what they owe.

Who: Rep. Jim Clements, R-Selah

Chances: Good.

I say: It's frightening that DSHS has to be told to inform elderly clients what their financial obligations are. The agency deals with the state's most marginalized people. If it won't communicate important information to its own clients, who will?

THERAPEUTIC COVERAGE

What: Don't you just love your occupational therapist? Actually, most of us have never seen one, but those who do can only be referred to one by a physician or a podiatrist. Dems and Republicans alike agree that any competent health-care provider can figure out when a patient needs occupational therapy. HB 1113 will give them the authority to do so.

Who: Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Spanaway

Chances: Hopeful.

I say: If you can convince your trusty naturopath or shrink that you need OT, there's no point in having to convince a podiatrist as well.

DUMBFOUNDED

Those of us who are poor and married are dumbfounded by the House Republicans' favorite reason not to support a bill that would require insurance companies to cover contraceptives, SB 5512. The bill can't even get a hearing because the GOP is worried it would cause teenagers to have sex. Who cares about teenagers? If my husband and I have children we can't afford, we're irresponsible. If we have abortions, we're immoral. What are we supposed to do, practice abstinence? The Republicans would probably say yes. After all, who are we to be getting something they're not?

 
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