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HealthCare Checkup

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

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Lisa Stiffler.

September 18, 2014 at 1:41 PM

Percentage of American women getting free birth control rises rapidly

More American women are getting free birth control in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, which requires most private insurance plans to pay for contraception with no co-pay or other out-of-pocket costs.

The percentage of women with private insurance coverage getting free oral contraception, or the pill, rose from 15 percent in the fall of 2012 to 67 percent this spring. The ACA’s free birth control mandate went into effect January 2013. Free access to other forms of pregnancy prevention also rose, according to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and published online Thursday in the journal Contraception.

“This analysis shows that the contraceptive coverage guarantee under the ACA is working as intended,” says Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher and lead author of the study, in a press release. The institute is a nonprofit organization focused on reproductive and sexual health rights, policy and research.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance

September 12, 2014 at 2:33 PM

$7.5 million to boost care at low-income, minority health clinics in Wash.

Health clinics in Washington that largely serve low-income and minority residents will receive nearly $7.5 million in federal grants to increase access to primary care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding more than $295 million to community clinics nationwide, according to an announcement made Friday. In Washington, the money will…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Washington Healthplanfinder

September 2, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Seattle Children’s, Regence settle dispute over insurance networks

A nearly yearlong dispute in which Seattle Children’s hospital sought to make sure its facilities and experts were included in Washington state health insurance plans was finally resolved Tuesday. Children’s and Cambia Health Solutions, parent company of Regence BlueShield and BridgeSpan Health, announced that the hospital will be part of the insurers’ network of health-care providers. “This…

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

August 28, 2014 at 4:09 PM

More health insurance options increase choice — and possibly confusion

The board overseeing the Washington’s health insurance marketplace Thursday certified more than 100 health and dental plans to be sold this fall. Washington residents will have roughly twice as many health insurance plans to choose from in the individual market for coverage beginning in 2015, including for the first time plans at…

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

August 5, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Gallup: Washington 4th in reducing uninsured residents

The percentage of Washington residents without health insurance dropped from 16.8 percent last year to 10.7 percent by mid-2014 according to a national survey released Tuesday by Gallup. Only Arkansas, Kentucky and Delaware had larger declines in the percentage of uninsured residents. Oregon ranked 7th. The reductions come as a result of the Affordable…

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

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

June 16, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Whistleblower testifies before state senators on fairness of OIC

State senators on Monday heard testimony as to whether people and companies who challenge rulings by some state agencies are getting a fair shake.

Specifically, the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee held a work session to delve into the role of the administrative hearing officer that presides over disputes at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. They were considering three ideas that could be shaped into proposed laws that would give the hearing officers greater independence when deciding cases.

The work session was held in response to a high-profile dispute in which the OIC’s Chief Presiding Officer Patricia Petersen says she was inappropriately contacted by an OIC official and pressured to decide cases in line with what Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler wanted.

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

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