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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

July 22, 2014 at 8:45 PM

PeaceHealth stops affiliation plans in Snohomish and Skagit counties

PeaceHealth, a Catholic health-care system, has delayed indefinitely its planned affiliations with small hospitals in Snohomish and Skagit counties, citing higher-than-expected costs in the effort to roll out a medical information-technology system. Nancy Steiger, PeaceHealth CEO and chief mission officer for its Northwest network, said PeaceHealth could not make a final commitment at this time to Cascade Valley…

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Comments | Topics: Cascade Valley Hospital, Nancy Steiger, PeaceHealth

July 21, 2014 at 8:19 PM

Washington health exchange sounds the alarm, questions Deloitte

One message came through loud and clear at today’s meeting of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s Operations Committee: It may not be time to panic about the health exchange’s problem-riddled invoicing and payments system, but it is time to sound the alarm and get all hands on deck. “We are really out of rope on this…

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Comments | Topics: Deloitte, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

July 18, 2014 at 6:23 AM

Hospital union: Why offer workers 1 percent raise, while CEO gets 18 percent?

Union members at EvergreenHealth medical center Thursday highlighted the comparison between the 1 percent pay raise they say the Kirkland hospital is offering them versus the 18 percent raise received by the CEO of the public hospital district facility last year. The informational picket and rally was held by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents Evergreen’s cooks, nursing assistants, lab techs,…

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Comments | Topics: EvergreenHealth, executive compensation, pay raises

July 17, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Lawmakers quiz health insurance exchange on glitches, budget

Lawmakers grilled officials from Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange Thursday, making it clear they’ve heard plenty from constituents who say they’ve paid their premiums but still don’t have health coverage — in most cases because premiums, which they paid to the exchange, aren’t getting to the insurer. “We’ve all heard a lot,” said Rep. Eileen…

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Comments | Topics: Healthplanfinder, Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

July 16, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Plenty of room to improve, says report rating health plans

Group Health Cooperative was the overall top-scoring health plan among five graded by the Washington Health Alliance, a collaborative of employers and others working to improve health-care transparency through measurement. What does the Alliance measure in its eValue8 report? For an insurance plan, it looks at processes aimed at ensuring patient safety, closing gaps in…

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Comments | Topics: Group Health Cooperative, Premera Blue Cross, Washington Health Alliance

July 3, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Same-sex newlyweds eligible for health insurance

Ad for Washington's insurance exchange.

Ad for Washington’s insurance exchange.

Gay and lesbian couples whose domestic partnerships automatically became marriages on Monday are eligible for a special health-insurance enrollment period.

The default marriages count as a “qualifying life event” that allows Washington residents to buy insurance on the individual market at a time when enrollment is closed to most people.

Other qualifying events include conventional marriages of gay or straight couples, having a baby or adopting, moving to an area with different insurance options, turning 26 and no longer qualifying for insurance through a parent, or losing insurance due to divorce, graduating college or COBRA coverage ending.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, enrollment, health insurance

June 26, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Costs to run state health exchange to exceed tax revenue

Logo for the state's insurance exchange.

Logo for the state’s insurance exchange.

Officials with the state’s health insurance marketplace estimate that they will need at least $53 million next year to keep the exchange running.

That amount is more than the $40 million that has been allocated by the state Legislature, but far less than the $127 million the insurance exchange expects to spend this year. Officials with Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the marketplace, presented their first crack at a budget at a meeting before their board in SeaTac on Thursday.

Where the money will come from — whatever the amount –  is unclear. The exchange is supposed to be self-sustaining by Jan. 1 of next year. The exchange is supposed to be self-sustaining by Jan. 1 of next year. The $40 million is expected to come primarily from a 2 percent tax levied on insurance premiums. Beginning this year, proceeds from that tax as assessed on plans sold through the Washington Healthplanfinder will go toward operating the exchange. If the tax doesn’t raise sufficient funds, the exchange can also assess a fee on insurers selling plans through the exchange beginning next year to make up the difference.

Many board members expressed concern that $53 million wasn’t going to be enough to make sure the exchange would run well and have enough outreach to meet enrollment goals.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

June 25, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Transgender discrimination is illegal, state reminds health insurers

In a letter Wednesday to health insurance companies, the state makes clear that it is illegal to discriminate against transgender policyholders under both state law and the federal Affordable Care Act. Specifically, an insurance company cannot deny services for a transgender person solely on the basis of gender status. Additionally, the health insurer must pay…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Mike Kreidler

June 18, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Seattle Children’s argues in favor of rulings by embattled OIC judge

OIC Chief Presiding Officer Patricia Petersen testifying before the Senate's Law and Justice Committee. TVW

OIC Chief Presiding Officer Patricia Petersen testifying before the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee. TVW

Seattle Children’s hospital on Tuesday made another move in the high-profile legal tussle over which facilities and doctors must be included in insurance plan networks in order to adequately protect customers.

The case — already significant because of the importance of the network adequacy debate — became even more controversial following allegations that the judge overseeing the dispute has been unfairly influenced. The allegations came from the judge herself, Patricia Petersen, chief presiding officer at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The controversy started last summer, when the OIC approved insurance plans to be sold in Washington’s health insurance marketplace. Those plans included ones that did not have Seattle Children’s in their coverage. In response, the hospital demanded a hearing with OIC, arguing that the plans are inadequate for failing to include their facility because of the unique services provided there.

There has not been a hearing yet, but from December to early May, Petersen has issued orders concerning the case.

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Comments | Topics: health insurance, Mike Kreidler, network adequacy

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