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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.

December 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

State wins $65 million grant for health-care effort

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that Washington state has been awarded a $65 million federal grant to fund an effort to deliver better health care more efficiently.

The four-year grant will help implement the state’s Health Care Innovation Plan beginning in February, and the effort — dubbed Healthier Washington — will be led by the state’s Health Care Authority (HCA), which manages the Medicaid program. Washington is one of 11 states that will share $622 million granted by the U.S. government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to implement a health-care innovation program.

The project began with a $1 million State Innovation Model grant that assembled a group of stakeholders, including representatives from state and local government, public health, delivery systems, business, health plans, consumer groups, labor, tribal entities, providers and community organizations. That effort resulted in the plan to reform health care, which has been endorsed by a who’s who list of Washington’s health-care leaders.

“I want every family to have access to affordable, effective health care, a healthy environment and an opportunity to learn so they and their kids thrive,” Inslee said in a statement.

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Comments | Topics: All-Payer Claims Database, health insurance, mental health

December 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

State insurance exchange working well for Medicaid

Entry point for enrolling in Apple Health.

Entry point for enrolling in Apple Health.

Washington’s exchange website — the one that has struggled with glitches in its sales of insurance plans — is smoothly managing its Medicaid accounts. Since October, the exchange has been automatically renewing Medicaid enrollees with no significant problems. In December alone, some 150,000 Medicaid participants automatically re-enrolled in the program.

Approximately 1.6 million state residents are in Medicaid, which is locally called Apple Health. Because people can sign up for federal program at anytime, they come up for renewal throughout the year.

“Making the renewal process for Washington Apple Health clients as seamless as possible is a top priority for us, and we are pleased that is happening so that people can continue accessing the care they need,” said MaryAnne Lindeblad, state Medicaid director at the Health Care Authority, in an email.

The exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, is the entry point for people enrolling in Medicaid as well as those shopping for insurance as individuals or small businesses. The  website launched in October 2013.

Since the launch, 480,000 new participants have signed up for Medicaid. That includes people who were previously eligible for the free health-care program but had not enrolled, as well as people who are newly eligible to participate in Medicaid. Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Washington is one of 27 states that elected to expand who qualifies for Medicaid in order to bring the program to more low-income people.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, Medicaid

December 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM

State is one-quarter of way toward Obamacare enrollment goals

Close to 56,000 people have bought health insurance or renewed their coverage through the state’s online exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. The state is slightly more than one-quarter of the way toward its goal of enrolling 215,000 people by mid-February.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about where we are,” said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the exchange.

In this second round of insurance enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, roughly 10,000 of the people signing up are new customers to the exchange. The state hopes to bring that number up to 85,000 by the close of open enrollment on Feb. 15. The other 46,000 are renewing customers.

Washington residents who want to make sure they have coverage on Jan. 1 must either sign up or renew their plan, plus make their first monthly premium payment, by Dec. 23.

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

November 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

State strips Speedos, rap artists from new insurance ad campaign

Gone from this year’s health-insurance ad campaign are the faux rap artists, backyard raccoon attacks and moustachioed man suspended by his turquoise Speedo. The controversial insurance exchange ads that some deemed offensive are being replaced this year with a new campaign that still aims to be funny — but less sensational. “Last year…

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Comments | More in General News | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

November 18, 2014 at 6:17 PM

Lawmakers voice anger with insurance exchange’s technical troubles

State lawmakers on Tuesday voiced their continued frustration with the technical problems still afflicting the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange. On Saturday, the first day of enrollment for the second round of insurance signups on the exchange, the site was live for only a couple of hours before a technical error was discovered and the exchange was taken…

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Comments | Topics: Richard Onizuka, Washington Health Benefit Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder

November 17, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Insurance boss Kreidler on the future of health-care reform

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler grabbed national attention last year when he broke with President Obama’s efforts to mollify a public upset by canceled insurance plans. Of late, Kreidler has been openly critical of the state’s botched efforts to make repairs to the online insurance exchange. But Kreidler remains a champion of the effort to make universal…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Mike Kreidler, Office of the Insurance Commissioner

October 29, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Small businesses can enroll in Obamacare statewide

Small businesses throughout Washington — those with 50 or fewer employees — can now shop for and enroll in health insurance plans through the state’s insurance exchange.

The exchange got off to a slow start for businesses this year when only one insurance provider, Kaiser Health Plan of the Northwest, agreed to sell plans in the marketplace and only in Clark and Cowlitz counties. For coverage beginning January 2015, small employers statewide can shop the exchange for coverage from Moda Health, and Kaiser will continue selling in the two southern counties. A total of 23 different plans are available from the two insurance companies.

Some businesses using the exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder Business, will be eligible for federal tax breaks, depending on the number of employees and their salaries.

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

October 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Seattle facility aims to jump start local health-care industry

Northwest business leaders have a plan to jump start Seattle’s health-care industry by creating a new facility that will “foster innovation and transformation” in the field. The Cambia Grove is envisioned as a place for folks who want to develop and test health-care innovations to come together and collaborate. Regence BlueShield and health-care providers…

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Comments | Topics: health insurance

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