Ruby de Luna

Reporter, KUOW

Ruby de Luna is a features reporter at KUOW. She had originally planned to go into TV, but ditched the idea after discovering public radio. Ruby reports on a wide range of issues, but her focus has been on Seattle's immigrant community. It's a natural draw because Ruby is a transplant from Taipei, Taiwan. Before KUOW, Ruby worked in the Washington State Legislature as a broadcast information assistant for the House Democrats.

Ruby holds a BA in communication from Seattle Pacific University. She was a Jefferson fellow at the East–West Center Media Program in Honolulu, Hawaii. She's a mentor for the student radio project at AAJA (Asian American Journalists Association). She is former Western Washington Pro Chapter president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

In the age of computer/digital audio editing, Ruby is proud to be one of the few old–schoolers who can still edit tape with a razor blade.

Ways to Connect

School kids in Washington state are tested for distance vision, to make sure they can see the chalk board at 20 feet. Now a new law requires students to also be tested for near vision.

But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

ROBERT HOOD / / FRED HUTCH NEWS SERVICE PHOTO

 Vice President Joe Biden toured Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Monday. His visit is part of the White House's $1 billion proposal for a new initiative to cure cancer.

AP Images

Washington State’s whooping cough outbreak continues to grow. So far this year, there’ve been 397 confirmed cases, compared with 85 last year. Here’s why: for one, whooping cough is cyclical; every 3-4 years, it peaks and then drops down.

Another reason is the vaccine itself, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chas Debolt is senior epidemiologist with the state department of health, and co-authored the study. The study looked at the duration of the vaccine’s level of protection, starting from the time a child receives a vaccine.

Joseph Morris / Flickr

A state senate committee will hear a proposal this week that would make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and vaporizers to minors.

Last fall Senator Judy Warnick got a tip from a police officer from her district in Moses Lake. He noted students were buying e-cigarettes easily from one store in particular.

“…and then they were modifying them so they could use marijuana in those cigarettes,” Warnick said.

She said there wasn’t much he could do about it. There are no rules that prohibit selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Govenor Jay Inslee unveiled his transportation plan Tuesday. His $12 billion proposal calls for a list of safety fixes. The fixes include old bridges that are at risk of becoming structurally deficient. The package also includes nearly $6 billion for new construction projects. To help pay for them, Inslee is proposing to charge the state’s major polluters.

A fourth student has died from the Marysville Pilchuck high school shooting.

Dr. Anita Tsen, critical care physician at Providence Medical Center at Everett made the announcement last night (FRI) at a press briefing streamed on KIRO TV.

Fourteen year-old Shaylee Chuckulnaskit died just before 5 that afternoon from her injuries.

Tsen read a statement from the Chucklenaskit family.

tahitianlime / Flickr

The state says it’s making progress in adding psychiatric beds to comply with a court mandate.

For years the state has had a shortage of psychiatric beds. As a result, patients with severe mental illness end up in emergency rooms until space at a psychiatric facility becomes available.

In august the state supreme court ruled that this practice of psychiatric boarding is unconstitutional. The court gave the state until December 26th to expand its inpatient capacity.

The holiday frenzy isn’t the only deadline looming. For people who expect to have health coverage when the new year starts, the deadline to enroll for a health plan is December 23rd. But signing up through the state’s health exchange has been rough for the last several days. As of Tuesday morning, the site is back up and running.

This week the state discovered an error that could mean some people would be paying more in premiums. 

Washington’s health exchange got off to a bumpy start on its first day Tuesday. The website was temporarily shut down all morning. People who tried to access the website experienced slowdowns and technical problems. But there were some people who managed avoid the glitches and sign up for health coverage.

The Washington State Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments in a case that could decide whether faith-based employers have some exemption from the state’s anti-discrimination law.

It’s official. Washington has reached a milestone in creating its own health exchange. Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Washington is among six states to make significant progress in developing an online market for health plans.

Bluedisk / Wikimedia Commons

Next fall, Washington’s health exchange is expected to be up and running. The exchange is an online market for health plans. Right now the Health Exchange Board is trying to figure out how to pay for itself. On Friday, the Board is considering different options.

Democrat Suzan Del Bene has won. She beat Republican John Koster in the congressional race for the newly drawn first district. Election returns show Del Bene ahead in three of the four counties.

Democrat Suzan Del Bene has won. She beat Republican John Koster in the congressional race for the newly drawn first district. Election returns show Del Bene ahead in three of the four counties.

Low income parents will soon have a way to get treatment for their children with autism. Starting in January, Washington state will cover applied behavior analysis therapy for kids with Medicaid coverage. The new benefit is part of a legal settlement between the state, and a local advocacy group for children with autism.

CDC

Public health experts are now recommending that pregnant women get the vaccine for whooping cough during pregnancy. The recommendation is in response to the growing outbreak of the disease in the U.S.

Delta Airlines wants to expand service to Asia. By next summer it plans to offer non-stop flights from Seattle to Shanghai, China. The airline will also offer nonstop flights between Seattle and Tokyo. The additional international service will be expanded through its partnership with Alaska Airlines.

Delta CEO Richard Anderson announced the proposed routes Monday morning at SeaTac Airport. He says delta will fly Boeing 747-400 jets to Japan’s Narita Airport…

Photo courtesy Dept. of Health and Human Services

About one out of five Medicare patients returns to the hospital within a month after being discharged. Those readmissions are often preventable. As Ruby de Luna reports, starting in October, Medicare will penalize hospitals with high readmission rates.

The new policy is part of the national health care law to reduce hospital readmissions. The goal is to reduce cost and improve patient care.

Dr. Nancy Fisher is Chief Medical Officer with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for Region 10. She says three-quarters of these readmissions are preventable.

Photo Credit: Tom Varco/Wikimedia Commons

Just in time for open enrollment season—insurance companies are required to explain health benefits in plain language. The new requirement is part of the affordable care act that takes effect this week.

Northwest drivers could be paying more at the pump.   That’s because this week’s refinery fire in California is likely to affect gas prices.  Ruby de Luna has more.

Analysts say get ready to pay as much as four dollars or more per gallon. You can blame the refinery fire in California for the spike. But what does that have to do with fuel prices here?

Overstreet: “We’re locked together at the hip by refinery system on the West Coast.”

Photo courtesy of Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The race for the Insurance Commissioner’s Office in Washington State might not be getting as much attention compared to other election races. But whoever wins the office will face a huge undertaking in the coming years as the state embarks on the next major phase of the national health care law. Ruby de Luna reports on the candidates and their views of the office’s role in the Affordable Care Act.

Bailey-Boushay House turns 20 this year. The residential care facility in Seattle’s Madison Valley was the first of its kind in the country. It focused on the health care needs of people with AIDS. It was born out of a crisis. Over the years the patients’ medical needs have changed. The facility has evolved, too. Ruby de Luna traces the history of Bailey-Boushay.

The two men vying to be Washington’s next governor squared off Tuesday.

Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna fielded questions about jobs and the economy. But the opening question was about healthcare.

Seattle city leaders are praising a hero who prevented more victims in Wednesday’s shooting.

Asst. Police Chief Jim Pugel described what he saw from a video that captured the shooting at Café Racer. He says the hero was sitting next to the suspect when he started firing at people.

Pugel: "The hero picked up a stool and threw it at the suspect, hit him. Picked up another stool, and hit him, this time, suspect is pointing at him.  During that time two or possibly three people made their escape and the suspect was between them and the door."

Photo courtesy HHS.gov

Washington State’s health insurance exchange got a boost. Wednesday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the state more than $127 million in federal grants. That money will help develop and implement the state’s Health Benefits exchange. The exchange is a marketplace where consumers will be able to compare and shop for health insurance plans.

Secretary of health Kathleen Sebelius says so far 34 states are in different stages of creating their own exchange…

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has sent two epidemiologists to Washington State. The investigators will try to find out what’s causing the state’s rapid rise of whooping cough cases. We get more from Ruby de Luna.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is reaching into emergency funds to help contain the state's whooping cough epidemic.

Photo credit: Sarah Gilbert/ Flickr / KUOW

The state has been trying to crack down on ER visits for conditions that are not critical. But health care providers say the state’s policies go too far, they’re unsafe for patients, and will shift costs to hospitals.

Hospitals and emergency room doctors want to address the problem their own way. They’ve put together what they call best practices for reducing unnecessary ER visits. A key component of that is using an electronic health information system.

Photo credit: Chad A. Bascom / U.S. NAVY

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced today that as of last month, there have been 640 cases of whooping cough. That’s compared to 94 in the same period last year.

Selecky: “If this pace continues, we’re on track to have the highest number of whooping cough cases in our state in decades.”

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