Washington state health exchange ready to launch

Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period, which ends in March.

They can sign up online at the Washington Healthplanfinder, on the telephone or in person at community centers, fire stations, libraries, churches and during special events.

The state hopes to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and another 280,000 in 2015, said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

The state estimates about a million Washington state residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people. About 325,000 will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.

Others will get a discount on their insurance through a credit on their federal taxes. To find out if they qualify for a tax credit or may be eligible for Medicaid or another program for free insurance for kids, people will need to fill out forms online or access the exchange by telephone or in person.

The exchange will ask for some personal information, such as Social Security numbers, ages and income, but people who just want to check it out and not sign up yet can do so anonymously. The length of the sign-up process depends on how many people live in a household and how much comparison shopping is done.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who don’t have insurance in 2014 will pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes in early 2015. The fines for people who ignore the new law are scheduled to increase over time.

“We want 6.5 million people to go to healthplanfinder to check it out,” Marchand said.

He said testing and training has been done to handle a lot of visitors with different needs, and the website has been stress tested to handle large numbers of visitors.

“We understand anything could be possible and we’ve taken the steps to make sure we’re ready for that,” Marchand said.

AP Correspondent Rachel La Corte contributed to this story from Olympia.

Online:

Washington Healthplanfinder: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

On the telephone:

1-855-923-4633 on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Record setting rainfall across Western Washington

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Saturday’s rain set records across Western Washington, from Olympia to Bellingham. And the National Weather Service says the rain isn’t over yet.

Record rainfall of 1.71 inches was recorded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Saturday. The weather service says that is more than double the old record of 0.83 of an inch set in 1948.

A record rainfall of 2.93 inches was set in Olympia, breaking the old record of 0.82 set in 1971.

A record was also set at the Hoquiam airport, where 1.78 inches fell on Saturday. The old record of just over an inch was set in 1962.

Another record was set at the Quillayute airport, with 1.93 inches of rain. That broke the previous record of 1.32 set in 1971.

Scientists working to define Cascadia Subduction Zone

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) – Scientists are just back from a monthlong research cruise in the Pacific Ocean off Washington state, where they were trying to find the stickiest point on a section of the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), the huge undersea fault that breaks loose every few hundred years and generates a massive tsunami and earthquake.

Paul Johnson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Washington, was 1 of the principal scientists. He says it will be some time before the data from deep-sea measurements of heat and gas emissions is fully analyzed.

But preliminary indications are the strongest upheaval will be farther out to sea than previously thought. That is important because the farther out to sea that upheaval occurs, the bigger the tsunami, and the less damage on land from the earthquake.

Whooping cough cases decrease in WA but not gone

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — As Oregon and national health officials raise the alarm about whooping cough in the Pacific Northwest, Washington health officials report the illness is declining.

The Daily News reports (http://is.gd/kcEqfK ) that by mid-July this year, there were 419 cases of whooping cough or pertussis in Washington state. That’s down considerably from the same period in 2012 when 3,237 cases were reported.

State health officials say 14 Washington counties have reported no pertussis at all this year.

These statistics clash with a statement issued Tuesday by the Oregon March of Dimes, which said pertussis cases in the Northwest have essentially tripled over several years.

Oregon cases did increase from 2011 to 2012, but they started declining in 2013. Michele M. Larsen of the March of Dimes Greater Oregon Chapter told The Daily News chapter officials were not aware of the latest figures.

Fisher making a comeback in Washington State

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – A weasel-like mammal that saw its numbers in Washington state dwindle to nothing over the past century is in the midst of a comeback. Wildlife officials reintroduced 90 fishers to the Olympic peninsula a few years ago, and are now preparing a plan to possibly reintroduce more of the cat-sized carnivores to Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks.

Wash. woman gets nearly 3 years in swindle

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Federal prosecutors say an Ocean Park, Wash., woman has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for swindling a retired St. Helens, Ore., man out of nearly $650,000.

Lisa Mottaghi was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Portland for wire fraud. The U.S. attorney’s office says she first borrowed large sums of money from 74-year-old Gerald Voorhees and later created a false email identity to get more money from him.

The Daily News of Longview reports (http://is.gd/RWPujl ) the woman was also ordered to pay restitution.

Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

Cops dealing Doritos at post-legalization Hempfest

SEATTLE (AP) – A few things will be different at this year’s Hempfest, the 22-year-old marijuana-friendly “protestival” on Seattle’s waterfront.

When it starts Friday, the haze of pot smoke might smell a little more like victory, after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana use by adults over 21. And the Seattle police will be busy handing out Doritos. Seriously.

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb says it’s not just an effort to satisfy the munchies. The department has 1,000 bags affixed with labels urging people to check out a question & answer post on its website about Washington’s law.

As many as 85,000 people per day are expected for the 3-day festival. Executive director Vivian McPeak says the event is calling for reforms of federal marijuana laws.

Follow Johnson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle

Dog defends owner in Castle Rock attack

CASTLE ROCK, Wash. (AP) – Police in the southwest Washington community of Castle Rock say a female jogger’s dog attacked and chased off a man who had knocked the woman down in an attempt to grab her cell phone.

The Daily News of Longview reports (http://is.gd/EeCsse ) the 22-year-old woman was not seriously hurt. She was jogging with two dogs on a trail along the Cowlitz River dike when a man jumped out of the bushes last Thursday evening. Police say 1 of the dogs attacked and the man ran off.

Now police are warning walkers and joggers to be alert on the popular river trail system. They say the man was described as shirtless and shoeless with shaggy blond hair and scruffy facial hair.

A police dog searched the area unsuccessfully.

Information from: The Daily News, http://www.tdn.com

Amber Alert ends with teen found safe in Idaho

CASCADE, Idaho (AP) – The FBI says it’s sending a team to Idaho to investigate the shooting that led to the death of a man suspected of killing a California woman and her young son and abducting her 16-year-old daughter.

Forty-year-old James Lee DiMaggio was killed Saturday after his campsite was spotted in Idaho’s rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Teen found safeThe teen, Hannah Anderson, was found safe. Ada County sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Dearden says she has no apparent injuries and there are no reports of injuries among law enforcement.

At a news conference Saturday evening, Dearden said the teen and DiMaggio were spotted not far from where a horseback rider reported seeing the pair Wednesday.

Dearden said she didn’t know if DiMaggio fired at officers.

Authorities offered few other details as the team from Washington, D.C., prepares to investigate.

Washington high court tosses Elma drug homicide conviction

OLYMPIA, Washington (AP) – The State Supreme Court has unanimously thrown out an Elma woman’s conviction for controlled substances homicide due to a defect in the charging papers filed against her.

Brenda Zillyette was charged after investigators in Grays Harbor County discovered she had provided the Xanax and methadone that caused the overdose death of 18-year-old Austin Burrows in 2009. However, in charging papers prosecutors didn’t specify what category of controlled substances or what specific drugs she was accused of providing.

Because only certain drugs can support a charge of controlled substances homicide, the high court found that in effect, the charging papers didn’t necessarily accuse her of committing a crime. For that reason, on Thursday they overturned the trial court that convicted her and the state appeals court panel that upheld the conviction.

The justices dismissed the charge against Zillyette, who learned about it on the news.