Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Job opening: Deputy commissioner for policy and legislative affairs

Our Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Legislative Affairs is stepping down to go back to school, meaning that we need to replace her.

As the title suggests, this is the person who oversees the agency's policy and legislative staff, and has a major role in our efforts to help implement federal health care reform in Washington state. So we're looking for a high-energy strategic leader who can manage senior-level professional staffers. We're a small, busy agency with a total staff of about 214 employees.

For a more-detailed job description, discussion of benefits, etc., please see our job posting. (Also: here's a printable version with the details, although the application process is through that first link.)

The salary range is $99,908 to $105,768. The application period closes Aug. 17th.

(This post was modified to reflect a one-week extension in the application period, which was originally Aug. 10th.)

Howard Hanson Dam: $44 million in repairs approved, means "one more winter" of higher-than-normal flood risk

For the past year, we've been closely following the situation with south King County's Howard Hanson Dam. The short form: A weakened earthen abutment to the dam means that during heavy rains, the Army Corps of Engineers may have to spill more water than usual from the nearly 50-year-old dam to avoid stressing it. That extra water translates into a higher-than-normal flood risk in the Green River Valley.

Last week, President Obama signed a bill that includes $44 million for repairs to the dam. The Corps and contractors have already done substantial work to shore up the abutment with a "grout curtain," which sounds like it's sort of an underground wall of concrete.

The next step, according to a story in the Kent Reporter newspaper, is to install new drains to help relieve a leak through the earthen abutment. Col. Anthony Wright, commander of the Corps' Seattle district, told the newspaper that "After completion of these drains, I believe I can operate the dam at its full design capacity."

That will come as a relief to homeowners and business owners in the heavily developed valley. The latter, in particular, reported difficulty finding flood insurance last winter.

In response, we huddled with state lawmakers, the governor, and more than two dozen insurance companies. The result: the Washington Flood Market Assistance Plan, which is a sort of matchmaking service between Green River Valley businesses needing more flood coverage and insurers willing to sell it.

If you're a business in the area and need flood insurance advice, feel free to contact us at 1-800-562-6900. (We're not an insurer or agent; we're the Washington state agency that regulates the insurance industry.)

A look at the case files from our consumer hotline

Little-known fact: We staff a toll-free hotline where Washingtonians with insurance questions or problems can get help from our experts and analysts. The phone number is 1-800-562-6900.

What do people call about? A lot call us looking for help finding health care. And we get a flurry of calls after wind storms, floods, etc. In many cases, we help the consumers recover thousands of dollars in wrongly denied or delayed claims.

Here's a look at some cases from June, for example:

-A staffer helped an 87-year-old woman get a $3,420 claim paid on a vehicle service contract. The company said she hadn't gotten the neccessary pre-authorization. In fact, she'd called 11 times.
-We helped settle an $8,253 homeowners claim that had been delayed due to multiple revisions of repair estimates.
-Another staffer helped a consumer recover $9,506 in a third-party property damage claim for a consumer whose car had been destroyed by poor workmanship at a repair shop.
-We helped clear the record after a insurer wrongly tagged a driver's file with an at-fault accident.
-A staffer helped convince an insurer to agree to total a truck and pay an additional $54,219 on a claim, after initially paying $17,000 for the repairs.
-We helped collect an additional $7,685 in long term care benefits re: hospice care for a recently deceased parent.