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Fast Facts

Monday, August 26

Health board pushes for more options after insurance commissioner's vetoes

Health board pushes for more options after insurance commissioner’s vetoes

Saying there are not enough options for consumers, Washington’s new health benefits exchange board delayed a vote to approve the plans recommended by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. Don Conant, chairman of AWB’s Health Care Committee and a member of the state’s health benefits exchange, said there are essentially only three companies offering plans, most of which have high deductibles. “I’m not happy about these plans,” Conant said. Kreidler, frustrated by the delay, said there isn’t enough time left to jump through the state and federal bureaucratic hoops to include more plans, including those from the five companies he had rejected earlier this month. “It ain’t gonna happen,” Kreidler said, later publishing an open letter explaining his vetoes. Clark County has the most limited options in the state, with only one company approved to sell health insurance, The Columbian reports.

Businesses delaying expansion, cutting health benefits as ACA kicks in

Facing rising costs and strict rules under the Affordable Care Act, businesses are increasingly dropping coverage that isn’t mandated or holding off on business expansion. UPS said it is reluctantly dropping coverage for about 15,000 working spouses of its employees, but will keep coverage for spouses without insurance elsewhere. Delta Air Lines said ObamaCare will be responsible for $38 million of its expected $100 million increase in health care costs next year. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, is calling for “surgery” to fix the law. Meanwhile, a new survey shows that the Americans who are most enthusiastic about the new health care law are also the ones who know the least about it. For now, the IRS created a new website to help businesses better understand this new law of the land.

State to spend $26 million advertising Healthplanfinder

Washington will spend more than $26 million on TV, radio, online and print to advertise its new insurance exchange, known as Healthplanfinder. The exchange opens Oct. 1. Officials hope to sign up 130,000 people in 2013 and another 280,000 in 2014, The Seattle Times reports (tiered paywall). So far there are no announced plans to follow up on earlier ideas to advertise in porta-potties and on toilet paper at musical festivals. The Obama administration is, however, offering a $30,000 prize for creation of a viral YouTube video to convince the so-called “young invincibles” – healthy 18-30-year-olds – to buy insurance.

Money pours into fight over $15 minimum wage initiative in SeaTac

Money is flowing in to both sides of the so-called “living wage” initiative that would set a $15 minimum hourly wage for airport-related businesses and encourage collective bargaining agreements. The Seattle Times reports (tiered paywall) that supporters and opponents of the measure have raised $440,000 for the battle, or about $37 for each of the city’s 11,852 registered voters. The Washington Research Council has detailed the hidden costs of this initiative, including jobs lost and outsources to highly educated workers from neighboring cities.

Brunell and Timmons: We need to fix our broken immigration system

America is closer to much-needed comprehensive immigration reform than it has been in decades, AWB President Don Brunell and National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons wrote in a recent op-ed. This is a competitiveness issue for American businesses in a global economy, they write, and note the power of immigration to supercharge our economy. Meanwhile, The Atlantic writes that immigration reform efforts seem to be winning. Opponents had planned a summer of protest, but it seems to have fizzled.

Herrera Beutler Immigration Meeting: Legislation needs to be approved this year

Earlier today, AWB President Don Brunell and a group of small farmers from Clark County met with U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s, R-Wash., key staff leaders to talk about the need for immigration reform and issues surrounding. Of particular concern is a path toward legalization, wage differentials within agriculture crops and worker verification. The meeting is part of a grassroots Congressional contact program during August.

Scientific American: Labels for GMO foods are a bad idea

The editors of Scientific American make a compelling argument that labels for genetically modified food will hurt consumers and feed into scare tactics that will eventually take healthy, affordable foods off the market. Labels frighten customers for no valid scientific reason, pushing manufacturers to completely abandon GMO foods that are tested and safe. However, while scientists are clearly against GMO labeling, this year’s pro-labeling Initiative 522 is amply fertilized with cash – the anti-GMO initiative leads 4 to 1 in the donations race.

Again, Washington’s worker’s comp system is tops in the nation for benefits paid out

For the second year in a row, Washington has the nation’s richest benefits for injured workers. The cost for benefits paid equaled $835.40 per covered worker in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), according to a National Academy of Social Insurance report. Employers thinking about locating in Washington will take note of this cost, making Washington a harder sell, the Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy writes. Notably, Washington pays the lowest rate of any state in medical care for injured workers (only 32.4 percent; Indiana is the highest at 73.2 percent for medical care). Most of our payouts go as cash benefits.

AWB, Washington Business Week honored by Gdynia city leaders

On Friday, AWB President Don C. Brunell and Washington Business Week Executive Director Steve McGraw received Gdynia’s (Poland) city awards of appreciation and accomplishment. The awards were presented at the Gdynia Business Week graduation ceremony in celebration of the five-year anniversary of the beginning of Poland Business Week. Poland Business Week is modeled after Washington Business Week which was developed by AWB and Central Washington University leaders in 1975. Gdynia was the pilot city in Poland in 2009.

GOP leaders choose former TV news anchor Susan Hutchison to lead state Republican party

Grassroots Republican leaders meeting in Spokane over the weekend chose former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison to replace the recently retired Kirby Wilbur as party chair. In a fiery speech, Hutchison compared the state GOP to George Washington’s “ragtag army” in Valley Forge, The Seattle Times reports (tiered paywall). She pledged to use her fundraising prowess, celebrity and media savvy to help the party turn around its fortunes.

Washington Research Council: exports crucial to state’s economic health

More than $77 billion worth of goods were exported through Washington seaports in 2011, contributing to 35,000 jobs in the Evergreen State, the Washington Research Council notes in part two of its series on trade and transportation. The top export destination was China, followed by Japan and South Korea. Nearly a third of the exports leaving our ports (by value) originated outside the state. Our ports face stiff opposition from Los Angeles, Long Beach, although our ports are moving up the list in value of exports while California’s ports are moving down.

Voters concerned about jobs and state spending, say state is on the wrong track

More than half (56 percent) of Washington voters feel the state is on the wrong track, according to a new Moore Information poll. Thirty-nine percent said the state’s economy is “not so good” and another 19 percent rate it as “poor.” Just 1 percent rated the economy as excellent. When asked what tax reform might help, voters were most enthusiastic about “helping promote job growth by reducing taxes on Washington businesses” and “promoting job growth by supporting tax incentives for companies that hire more workers.” Respondents said the most important issue facing the state is jobs and the level of government spending. Gov. Jay Inslee had a 47 percent approval rating.

Lawmakers can’t agree on what to tell Supreme Court about progress on McCleary mandates

A bipartisan legislative committee met behind closed doors last week but couldn’t agree on what kind of progress to report on the Supreme Court’s McClearly decision on school funding. Republicans want to emphasize reforms made this year and more that could come. Democrats want to ask the court if reforms and policy changes are really necessary (News Tribune/tiered subscription). Columnist Peter Callaghan notes that Washington’s education establishment only allows reform when absolutely forced to, and then only “as sloooooowly as possible.”

Ballmer announces retirement from top job at Microsoft; Gates on committee to choose a successor

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within the next 12 months, the company announced Friday. Chairman of the board and company co-founder Bill Gates is on the committee to pick a successor. The executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International will consider both internal and external candidates. Ballmer joined Microsoft when the company had 30 employees and $7 million in revenue; it now has 100,000 employees and $78 billion in revenue, The Seattle Times reports (tiered subscription). What will Ballmer do in retirement? It might involve NBA basketball, the Times suggests.

Should women pay more for health insurance?

Using a provocative question to illuminate the basic realities of health insurance costs, Hadley Heath argues in TIME Magazine that women should pay more for health insurance. Maternity care is more expensive and women’s longer lifespans mean they use more insurance, Health writes. It’s neither fair nor wise to require that health insurance companies charge women the same amount as men, she says. Hear more from this leading thinker on health care and fiscal policy at the Sept. 17-19 AWB Policy Summit.

AWB office to be closed for Labor Day

AWB’s Olympia office will be closed next Monday for Labor Day. Next week’s Fast Facts will be sent out on Tuesday. We wish all our state’s employers and workers a safe and happy Labor Day.

King Felix to start after Brunell throws out first pitch at Wednesday’s Mariners game

Star pitcher Felix Hernandez will take to the mound this Wednesday as the Mariners face the Texas Ranger. But first, Don Brunell, who is finishing 26 years as president of AWB, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Mariners will thank and recognize Don for his leadership in the business community, the state and at AWB. It’s an afternoon game – a businessman’s special – with Brunell’s first pitch scheduled for shortly after noon.

Is your organization ready for Seattle’s new rules limiting criminal background checks?

On Nov. 1, Seattle’s new “ban the box” ordinance will limit an employer’s ability to ask about an applicant’s criminal background. Is your organization ready? On Oct. 3, Kris Teft, AWB director of government affairs for employment law, and Greg Hendershott, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, will answer your questions on these topics and more:

  • When is it safe for an employer to inquire about an applicant's criminal background?
  • When is it appropriate for an employer to take adverse action against a current or prospective employee because of an applicant's criminal conduct?
  • Are there exceptions to the new rules?
  • What kind of risks and liabilities do these rules impose on employers directly and indirectly?
  • How does Seattle's new ordinance interact with state and federal regulation of criminal background checks?

The Oct. 3 seminar will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. in the John Davis Conference Center at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, 1201 Third Ave., Suite 2200, Seattle. Cost is $40 for members, $65 for non-member. This program is pending recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute. Contact AWB’s Anne Haller at 360.943.1600 for more information.

Save the date for 2013 Manufacturing Sumit - Friday, Oct. 25, Cedarbrook Lodge, SeaTac

Mark your calendars for the second annual AWB Manufacturing Summit. This 2013 summit sponsored by McGladrey includes our ninth-annual Manufacturing Excellence Awards, sponsored by UPS. essions include:

  • “Developing Local Relationships That Build Your Workforce,” panel moderated by Gary Chandler, AWB vice president, government affairs.
  • “Manufacturing Challenges and Opportunities in Washington,” panel moderated Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • McGladrey 2013 Monitor Results, presented by Wendy Sancewich, CPA, CFE, National Manufacturing Team Director, McGladrey.
  • Manufacturing Excellence Awards Luncheon sponsored by The Boeing Company.

Registration opens Sept. 3. Contact Anne Haller at 800.521.9325 for more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities.

‘Morning Joe’ duo, Time magazine’s economy editor to headline Fall Policy Summit

AWB’s room block is sold out at Suncadia Resort, but you can still register to attend AWB’s 24th annual Policy Summit, sponsored by AT&T. This year’s line-up features a powerful slate of speakers addressing national politics and economic issues. MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski will keynote the dinner. Other featured speakers include:

  • Rana Foroohar, Time Magazine columnist and economy editor.
  • A CEO panel featuring Scott Morris, chairman of the board, president and CEO, Avista Corporation, Spokane, and Colin Moseley, chairman, Green Diamond Resource Company, and Ezra Eckhardt, President and Chief Operating Officer, Sterling Bank.
  • Health Care at a Crossroad … What’s Next? featuring Don Conant, an active AWB member and a member of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board; Jeff Roe, executive vice president, Premera Blue Cross of Washington; Dr. Lee A. Antles, MD, West Olympia Internal Medicine; and Hadley Heath, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum and an expert on the Affordable Care Act.
  • Skills Gap Threatens Washington’s Economy: What’s the Solution? Panel of educators and business leaders moderated by Doug Bayne, Walla Walla Community College Foundation. Panelists include Lee Huntsman, University of Washington president emeritus; Earl Hale, the retired executive director of Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges; and Brian Benzel, vice president for finance and administration, Whitworth University.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee will address attendees at lunch on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Policy Summit will be held Sept. 17-19 at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum. Register online here. Please note that AWB’s block of rooms at Suncadia is now sold out. Attendees can call AWB at 800.521.9325 to be placed on a waiting list or look up other lodging options at our website. Follow Policy Summit on Twitter at @AWBSummit or by searching the hashtag #awbsummit13.

Policy Summit debuts new mobile app

A few sponsorships are still available for AWB’s new Policy Summit mobile app. Later this month, attendees can download the new app onto smartphones, providing digital access to all of the summit materials, including event updates, social media integration, and the power to connect directly with speakers and guests. Email Anne Haller, AWB’s director of member relations and events, or contact her by phone at 360.943.1600 for complete sponsor details. 

Annual golf tournament set for Rope Rider Golf Course Sept. 17
The AWB Institute is excited to host this year’s fundraising golf tournament, sponsored by Altria, for Washington Business Week — an educational program that offers students a chance to experience simulated career challenges in a general business setting or in the career-focused pathways of health care, energy, manufacturing and agriculture. The shotgun start at Rope Rider Golf Course is 10:30 a.m. sharp on Tuesday, Sept. 17, during AWB’s Policy Summit. Golfers will enjoy playing on this Jacobsen Hardy Design course, one of the nation's most respected course architecture firms. Golfers will check in at Inn at Suncadia/Prospector Golf Course to warm up on the driving range and participate in the putting contest. Registration is $140. Golf sponsorships are available here.

Don Brunell Scholarships Applications Now Being Accepted
Washington Business Week has “a magical quality that transforms lives,” AWB President Don Brunell recently wrote. To help spread the opportunity for Business Week’s transformative power, the AWB Institute is now accepting applications for the 2013 Don Brunell Scholarship for Future Business Leaders. AWB members with children or grandchildren are encouraged to apply. The scholarship is targeted to undergraduate, graduate, or career/vocational students currently pursuing or who intend to pursue a course of education that will lead to a degree or certification in business. Recipients may receive up to $2,000. Details and an application packet are online, or contact the scholarship administrator, Mike Hudson, at The deadline for submitting applications is Oct. 31.

Conducting Effective Pre-Hire Interviews That Bring Results, Sept. 10

From the top executive to front-line employees, having the right people on your team is the key to executing any business strategy. The company with the most talented team wins — period. The pre-employment interview is crucial to understanding a candidate’s history and potential. Learn how you can effectively choose and ask clear and probing questions that lead to the right hire. Jenifer Lambert, vice president of TERRA Staffing Group, will lead a webinar with “tricks of the trade” to help you significantly improve your odds of selecting top performers that will provide your company a real competitive advantage. This session is geared toward any manager that has responsibility for hiring and will cover:

  • Avoiding potential legal landmines during the pre-hire process
  • Classic hiring mistakes that all managers make and how to avoid them
  • An “ESP” process that will help you get beyond “interview answers” to the truth
  • Strategies for gathering references that lead to more effective hires
  • The three questions you must be have clear answers to before hiring anyone

Lambert’s lessons comes from more than 20 years in the recruiting and staffing industry helping clients across diverse industries hire more effectively. This Sept. 10 webinar runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The cost for AWB members is $49 and for non-members is $69. Contact Jennifer Davis at 800.521.9325 for more information.

AWB offers simple 401(k) plan for members

Members can take advantage of an exciting retirement program – MyFuture 401(k) – an easier, more cost-effective plan for your company. Each adopting employer retains control of the vesting, eligibility requirements, matching contributions, profit sharing, and general plan design while decreasing the administrative burden and fiduciary liability. On-site education and enrollment services are provided to your employees by Integrity Financial, a local investment advisor, along with institutional grade investment options and professionally managed risk-based portfolios. For more information, please contact AWB at 1.800.521.9325 or visit

Save the date: AWB 2013 Health Care Forum, Nov. 6

Still trying to make sense of the Affordable Care Act? Plan now to attend AWB’s 2013 Health Care Forum, Nov. 6 at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel. The forum, “Understanding & Implementing the Changes in Health Care,” features Dr. John Goodman, president & CEO, National Center for Policy Analysis. Goodman is widely known as the father of health savings accounts, and Modern Healthcare named him as one of four people who have most influenced the modern health care system. Goodman is the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. The mission of the Wright Fellowship is to promote a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system. Goodman was the lead expert in the NCPA’s grassroots public policy campaign, "Free Our Health Care Now," an unsurpassed national education effort to communicate patient-centered alternatives to a government-run health care system. The initiative resulted in the largest online petition ever delivered to Capitol Hill. Goodman frequently testifies before Congress on health care reform and retirement topics.

Additional Sessions:
  • Affordable Care Act Impact on Employers: What do employers need to be ready for and what’s next?
  • Opportunity for Employers: Can my company really reduce health care costs?
  • Transform Your Workforce. Strengthen Your Bottom Line: Panel of successful case studies in wellness programs

Registration opens in late September. Group rate lodging is available for $179. Sponsorships available now; contact Anne Haller.

“He was clearly not eager to release this report. He asked for this report, he didn’t like what this report said, so he just put it away.”
~ Lauri Hennessey, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, about Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s decision to quietly sit on an economic analysis that showed strong benefits for Seattle from coal export terminals. McGinn, a coal foe, announced the $25,000 study last year in a much-heralded news conference but only released the final report after the Seattle Times submitted a public records request

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