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NEW RAMP OPENS FOR TACOMA DRIVERS

Travelers who use Interstate 705, State Route 7 and Pacific Avenue to reach southbound I-5 now have a shorter detour in place to reach southbound I-5.

On Nov. 16, design-build contractor Skanska opened a temporary ramp that connects drivers coming from Tacoma’s city center to southbound I-5 at an earlier location near the SR 16 exit.

Opening this new ramp to southbound I-5 will allow crews to remove temporary tubular markers that, for six months, have restricted eastbound SR 16 drivers from accessing the west side of South 38th Street.

By removing the temporary markers, drivers will have access to both east and west South 38th Street from all directions of I-5 and SR 16.

WSDOT would like to remind and encourage drivers to pay attention to work zones and drive for conditions during this holiday season.

Visit the Tacomatraffic.com web page for updated HOV construction information. Real-time traveler information is available from the WSDOT app at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Inform/mobile.htmand by following the WSDOT regional Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/wsdot_tacoma.

 

MCKINLEY WAY OVERPASS NOW OPEN

After a two-year closure, a key downtown Tacoma thoroughfare is reopening for all users of the road.

On Friday, Nov. 16, McKinley Way over Interstate 5 reopened to vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. When fully complete, the new overpass will sport two 10-foot-wide sidewalks, two six-foot-wide bicycle paths, a median and a left-turn lane. The original McKinley Way configuration had narrower 6-foot-wide sidewalks and had no dedicated bicycle lanes, median or turn lane. A diagram of the before and after design is available online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/MStToPortland/OverpassDetails.htm. One sidewalk will remain closed for continued construction.

The overpass has been closed since summer 2016, when contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation demolished and rebuilt it to make way for additional lanes on I-5.

“We truly appreciate the patience people showed while detouring around this closure,” said WSDOT project engineer Gaius Sanoy. “This is a huge milestone signaling that we’re reaching the end of this project.”

This overpass is the second that WSDOT’s contractor, Max J. Kuney Company, rebuilt in the project to widen I-5 for HOV lanes through Tacoma. In an earlier stage of the project, the Pacific Avenue overpass was demolished and rebuilt. Both new overpasses were built to modern earthquake standards.

Construction to build a new southbound I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River is scheduled to begin in February 2019. This project will also demolish and replace the L Street overpass spanning I-5, and finish replacing the existing concrete pavement on I-5 between McKinley Way and Portland Avenue. Once this final project is complete at the end of 2021, travelers will have a continuous HOV corridor between Gig Harbor in Pierce County and north of Seattle.

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR MLK COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDS NOMINATION

Recognizing and encouraging excellence in community service activities, the City Events and Recognition Committee (CERC) is now accepting nominations for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award through Nov. 30. This year, there are two categories for this award: Lifetime Service (individual or group) and Emerging Leader (individual).

“We are looking for people who embrace and share the legacy of Dr. King’s teachings and actions,” said CERC member Brendan Nelson. “I’m excited to see the Emerging Leader category added this year, because I know so many young people who are making a difference out there and should be recognized and encouraged to lead on.”

Nominations for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 30 to be considered by the committee. Nominations can be filled out online, and submitted by email at MLK@cityoftacoma.org, fax at (253) 591-5232, or mail at City of Tacoma, Attention: City Events and Recognitions Committee, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, WA 98421.
Questions or requests for hard copy nomination forms can be directed to MLK@cityoftacoma.org, 311 within Tacoma city limits or (253) 591-5000 from anywhere else, or the TacomaFIRST 311 Customer Support Center in the Tacoma Municipal Building (747 Market St., 2nd Floor) during regular business hours.

The award winner will be selected by the committee and recognized at the City of Tacoma’s 31st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration on Jan. 21, 2019.

More information about the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration is available at cityoftacoma.org/MLK.

 

ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION RECRUITING VOLUNTEER FACILITATORS

Make a difference in the life of a family caregiver. The Alzheimer’s Association is currently recruiting local volunteers to facilitate an evening Family Caregiver Support Group in Tacoma.

Family Caregiver Support Groups provide a consistent and caring place for caregivers to learn, share, and gain emotional support from others who are also on a unique journey of providing care to a person with memory loss.

Our chapter-trained volunteers receive excellent training, ongoing support, resources, and continuing education opportunities. Individuals who are often best qualified as support group facilitators include: working or retired social workers, nurse and other healthcare professionals, educators, clergy, counselors, and former family caregivers. Commitment of at least one year is required

Interested in learning more? Contact April Scott, manager of community support, at 1 (800) 848-7097, (206) 529-3875 or apscott@alz.org.

 

CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES RECEIVES BEZOS GRANT

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington has been selected to receive a four year $5 million grant from the Day 1 Families Fund to expand their mission of creating a safe, loving and nurturing environment for homeless families in need of affordable housing in Pierce County.

The grant will allow Catholic Community Services to significantly expand support to children and families experiencing homelessness, including a well-resourced day center focused on providing immediate response and support to homeless families. It will enable the community to reverse the trend of increasing family homelessness and to significantly reduce its prevalence. Over the duration of the four-year grant CCS anticipates problem solving with more than 2,800 families and diverting 650 families to immediate housing options.

“We’re thrilled to receive this grant as we celebrate one hundred years of service to vulnerable children and families and kick-off our Centennial Appeal For The Poor,” said Denny Hunthausen, agency director at Catholic Community Services. “This grant is an encouraging sign that together, we are committed to addressing this challenge. It will have a considerable impact on family homelessness in Pierce County and we are grateful in this season of Thanksgiving.”

The organization’s employees and volunteers come from many faith traditions to serve and support poor and vulnerable people through the provision of quality, integrated services and housing. Since 1918, the Archdiocese of Seattle has worked to organize efforts to aid the poor.

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington is one of 24 nonprofits to receive the first Day 1 Families Fund grants, totaling $97.5 million. Recipients from around the country include: Abode Services, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, Community of Hope, Crossroads Rhode Island, District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), Emerald Development & Economic Network (EDEN) Inc., FrontLine Service, Hamilton Families, Heartland Family Service, Housing Families First, JOIN, LA Family Housing (LAFH), Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), Primo Center for Women and Children, Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), SEARCH Homeless Services, Simpson Housing Services, The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, The Salvation Army of Greater Houston, UMOM New Day Centers and Urban Resource Institute (URI).

Founded by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, the Bezos Day One Fund consists of two programs: the Day 1 Families Fund that provides grants to nonprofit organizations fighting homelessness, and the Day 1 Academies Fund that will fund and build a network of pre-schools in low-income communities across the country. The Day 1 Families Fund’s vision comes from the inspiring Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child should sleep outside. A small group of expert advisors provided input to the Bezos Day One Fund team to select these organizations. The Day 1 Families Fund will be awarding grants annually. For more information, visit www.BezosDayOneFund.org/Day1FamiliesFund.

 

SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Social Security is the cornerstone of retirement plans for most Americans. The program continues to evolve and for individuals preparing to start their Social Security benefits, changes may impact their retirement plans. With some knowledge and a few simple tips, one might save thousands of dollars.

Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources, in partnership with the Social Security Administration, will host Social Security Retirement 2019, a fast-paced presentation for anyone currently receiving or anticipating their benefits in the next year. This free informational workshop will be held Monday, Dec. 3 from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Auditorium, 3629 S. D St. in Tacoma.

This presentation will offer strategies that can maximize benefits, including ideal times to start receiving benefits and advantages of making claims based on spousal work history. Participants will also learn how to negotiate the rules about working, either full or part time, while receiving benefits.

Kirk Larson, Western Washington public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration, will be presenting. Using his 25 years’ experience working for the agency, Larson has provided important information about retirement and benefits to communities along the west coast and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows to discuss Social Security issues.

“The Social Security program has been much talked about,” said Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources manager Aaron Van Valkenburg. “Current and prospective beneficiaries need to get the facts, so they will know what’s coming. It is especially important for individuals planning on retirement in the next year or two need to be accurately informed. We are fortunate to have a Social Security expert explain the changes and how best to navigate the system.”

One of the best ways to understand benefits is by utilizing the “my Social Security” account online at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. Participants are encouraged to create their personal “my Social Security” account and print out their social security statement before attending this presentation. If you need assistance, Kirk Larson will be available after the presentation to help set up your account.

This presentation is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required. For more information about the presentation call the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or 1 (800) 562-0332.

 

FOUR THINGS TO KNOW FOR CHOOSING MEDICARE COVERAGE

The deadline is fast approaching! The Medicare annual election period, during which people with Medicare can enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan, ends Dec. 7.

It’s important to take this time to evaluate your health care choices. Even if you’re already enrolled in a plan, your insurance company’s drug formularies, provider networks and copays may change in 2019. Plus, your health care needs – such as the doctors you visit or the medications you take – could be different than they were last year.

Here are four simple steps to help you decide which kind of Medicare coverage is best for you:

  1. Review your current Medicare health plan.Look at what you’ve spent on health care in the past year, including hospital expenses and prescriptions. Evaluating what you spent in 2018 will help you decide whether your current health plan meets your needs, both financially and medically.
  2. Know your optionsfor Medicare coverage:
  • Original Medicare(Medicare Parts A and B): Provides basic coverage for medical services and supplies in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other health care settings. Original Medicare does not include coverage for most prescriptions and includes cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance.
  • Medicare Advantage(Medicare Part C): Includes all the coverage offered under Original Medicare, and typically also includes prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may include additional benefits as well, such as dental, hearing and vision coverage; a nurse advice line; and a fitness program. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers, like Humana, and are steadily gaining in popularity: The number of Americans choosing this option is expected to climb to 36 percent in 2019, up from 33 percent in 2017, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Plans(Medicare Part D): Offers coverage for prescription medications. Such a plan can be added to original Medicare, a Medicare supplement (Medigap) plan or to some Medicare Advantage plans (that do not include prescription drug coverage), some Medicare Cost Plans, and some Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plans.
  • Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans: Pays most costs not included under Original Medicare, such as deductibles and coinsurance. These plans do not have a set provider network, and enrollment is not limited to the Medicare Annual Election Period but they are often subject to underwriting. These plans are also sold by private insurance companies, like Humana. Medicare supplement plans on the market today do not include prescription drug coverage.
  1. Comparison shop.Research a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, and its network of doctors and hospitals. Check to see if your prescriptions are on your plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs), as these can change each year. Compare plan benefits, such as dental, vision and hearing benefits; a fitness program; virtual doctors and behavioral health coverage.
  2. Ask an expert.You are not alone! There are resources if you have questions:
  • If you prefer to learn more in person, you can attend a seminar in your area or meet with a licensed sales agent. To find out about Humana seminars or speak to a Humana licensed sales agent call 1 (877) 877-0714 (TTY: 711) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
  • If you prefer to do your research online, you can visit websites such asgov and humana.com/medicare to view and compare plans in your area.
  • You can also call 1 (800) MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 2019 Medicare plan information to speak to someone by phone.

This is the time to make the best choice for you in the new year! Again, the Annual Election Period ends Dec. 7, so be sure to make your decision for Medicare coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2019.

By Catherine Field, Humana Intermountain Market President

 

L&I SEEKS INPUT ON DRAFT CHANGES TO OVERTIME RULES

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries has released preliminary draft rules that spell out possible changes for salaried workers in the state. Changes to these rules will mean more employees will be entitled to overtime, minimum wage and paid sick leave.

One of the key changes updates the minimum pay allowed to consider a salaried worker exempt from overtime in Washington. It’s been more than 40 years since this figure has been updated in our state. Salaried employees earning less than the salary threshold are required by law to receive overtime, minimum wage, paid sick leave and other protections of the Minimum Wage Act.

“A strong economy goes hand-in-hand with a strong and well-supported workforce,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Updating and modernizing this decades-old rule is necessary as people who work extra hours should be paid for their labor.”

Under this proposal, L&I is considering increasing the salary threshold to between 2 and 2.5 times minimum wage starting Jan. 1, 2020. As part of the proposal, L&I is looking for feedback on whether the higher salary threshold should be phased in based on employer size or geographic location.

Other possible changes to the rules include aligning the state and federal job duties tests, which are used to determine if an employee who is salaried is exempt from overtime.

The proposed changes are a result of early discussions and input L&I has received from business and labor representatives over the last six months. L&I also took input from the public on an earlier proposal at feedback sessions held in October in Tumwater, Everett, Richland and Spokane.

Employers and workers are encouraged to attend an upcoming L&I feedback session to learn more and provide input:

  • Seattle, Nov. 27, 10 a.m., The Swedish Club, Stockholm Room
  • Yakima, Nov. 28, 10 a.m., Hilton Garden Inn, Rainier Room
  • Vancouver, Nov. 29, 10 a.m., L&I Vancouver office

Input on the latest draft proposal will also be accepted online and by email through December 14. Feedback from the public will help L&I develop the official draft rules, which will be released when the formal rulemaking process begins in early 2019. The process will include public hearings where people can provide on-the-record comments.

There’s more information online about the overtime rules process at www.Lni.wa.gov/OvertimeRulemaking. People can also sign up for updates through L&I’s Employment Standards’ listserv at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADLI/subscriber/new?topic_id=WADLI.

 

HUMANA OFFERS VIRTUAL BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES

To better meet members’ needs and expand access to care, Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), a leading health and well-being company, is teaming up with MDLIVE, a leading telemedicine services and software provider, to provide Humana Medicare Advantage members virtual access to behavioral health services in select Washington counties.

Humana is including the virtual visit benefit on certain Medicare Advantage plans offered for the 2019 plan year. Members who choose plans with this benefit can access clinicians through personal computers, telephone or mobile devices for a wide range of non-emergency mental and behavioral conditions, such as addiction, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, grief and loss, life changes, panic disorders, parenting issues, postpartum depression, relationship and marriage issues, and stress. Virtual visits are scheduled appointments for a future date and time. Initial appointments will typically occur within five to 10 days from the time an appointment is first made or requested.

Virtual visits can be beneficial for people who might need to see a clinician on the weekend or evenings, or when they are traveling. It can also be beneficial for those who may not have access to transportation or are unable to drive.

“For people to achieve their best health, we must care for both their physical and mental health. Virtual visits allow our members to receive behavioral health care when and where they need it,” said Catherine Field, Intermountain Region Medicare President for Humana. “It’s important that we offer our members access to behavioral health services in a timely manner and reduce some of the barriers that prevent people from getting the mental health care they need.”

All virtual visit psychiatrists and therapists are U.S. board certified and in-state licensed and/or credentialed in the states they practice. The clinicians can provide psychiatric diagnostic evaluation, individual or family psychotherapy, ongoing behavioral health evaluation and management.

With the member’s consent, Humana utilizes its clinical data technology to ensure individual health records are available to MDLIVE medical professionals and the MDLIVE clinician’s treatment plan, including any prescriptions, is shared with the member’s primary care physician.

Humana will offer the virtual visit benefit on the following Medicare Advantage plans with a $0 copay per visit on all of these plans:

  • Humana Gold Plus HMO plan in Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom and Skagit counties.
  • HumanaChoice PPO plan in Clark, Cowlitz, Island, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, and Whatcom counties.
  • Humana Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan(for people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) in Clark, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, and Thurston counties.

People with Medicare may select these plans during the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Annual Election Period, which runs through Dec. 7. Those selecting a plan with this option will be able to start using the benefit Jan. 1, 2019. 

Since introducing the physical health virtual visit benefit on some Medicare Advantage plans in 2016, 85 percent of Humana members who used the service and took the post-care survey ranked their experience as either good or excellent.

Washington Medicare beneficiaries living in Clark, Cowlitz, Island, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, Whatcom and Skagit counties who are interested in utilizing MDLIVE should visit Humana.com/Medicare to research these plans and learn more about this and other plan benefits.

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