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Obamacare Check-Up 

New data on Washingtonians signing up for health care; plus, a ruling on Christopher Parker's death

Progress Report

More than 717,000 people have enrolled in health care coverage through Washington state's online insurance marketplace, according to a new data from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Roughly 50,000 have come from Spokane County.

The vast majority of enrollees in the state exchange — about 86 percent — were eligible for Medicaid. The rest — more than 101,000 people — have signed up for private insurance plans. More than half of them have chosen middle-tier "silver plans."

Of those, about 20,000 young adults, ages 18 to 34, have enrolled in private plans, a slight uptick from the end of December. Although nearly half of the uninsured population in Washington state are young adults, so far they represent only 22 percent of new enrollees. Their participation in the exchange is crucial for balancing the higher costs of insuring older and sicker individuals.

March 31 is the last day of open enrollment in private insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Anyone who hasn't bought insurance after that will face a penalty. State officials hope to insure 280,000 people in private plans by the end of the year.

— DEANNA PAN

No Charges in Jail Death

A year after the death of 33-year-old Christopher Parker in the Spokane County Jail, the County Prosecutor's Office has determined jail staff followed proper protocols and acted without criminal negligence. Charges will not be filed in the death of the diabetic drywall worker, who called 911 for medical help after ingesting meth, but later wrestled with corrections deputies and died in a jail restraint chair.

Prosecutor Steve Tucker announced Friday he had found no criminal culpability in how staff interacted with Parker, who arrived at the jail on Feb. 24, 2013, with extremely high blood sugar as well as meth in his system. When Parker became uncooperative, deputies Tasered him twice and doubled him over in a restraint chair.

Tucker says an autopsy determined Parker died from a combination of three factors: his diabetes, meth intoxication and physiological stress from being forced into restraints. While the manner of death was found to be "homicide," Tucker says that does not establish criminal liability.

"The Tasering didn't kill him," Tucker says. "The restraint didn't kill him. It's only in combination with the meth."

Tucker also found jail nurse Kerrie Fernlund acted appropriately when she measured Parker's blood sugar at 416 mg/dL, but did not order transport to a hospital as suggested by a long-standing protocol limiting jailhouse care to levels below 400 mg/dL. Tucker says a separate policy set the threshold at closer to 500 mg/dL.

"Jail Nurse Fernlund['s] actions were not a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation," a decision memo states. — JACOB JONES

The Hill

"Superintendents and educators are always talking about the hill they're willing to die on, but they never seem to find it," East Valley School District Superintendent John Glenewinkel told the Inlander three years ago, discussing the controversy over the district's decision to eliminate middle school and keep students at the same school from kindergarten through eighth grade. "This is the hill I'm sort of willing to die on."

Now, he sort of has. At the end of four years of tireless opposition, a sweeping bond defeat last spring and a balance-shifting school board election last fall, Glenewinkel submitted his resignation on Feb. 12. The board approved it on Valentine's Day.

"As we talked about policies that might need to be changed, [Glenewinkel knew that] it was going to be a tenuous situation," says recently elected board chairman Mike Novakovich.

Novakovich says he's open to keeping at least one traditional school as K-8, assuming enough parents are supportive of the idea. This Thursday, Feb. 27 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and Saturday, March 8 from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, the board will hold public workshops.

"We need to quickly have a clear picture of which direction we're going to head," Novakovich says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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