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HealthCare Checkup

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

Topic: Affordable Care Act

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

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 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 13, 2014 at 4:06 PM

State offers auto-renewal of health insurance

Most Washington residents who bought individual health insurance through the state’s marketplace will be able to automatically renew their coverage for 2105 without taking any additional steps. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the marketplace, is sending out renewal letters to its customers beginning this week. Insurance companies are sending their own letters to inform…

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

October 2, 2014 at 12:13 PM

State senators aim to boost birth-control access after Hobby Lobby ruling

A group of Democratic state senators said Thursday that it is crafting legislation to protect Washington women’s access to insurer-provided birth control. The group also criticized Republican leaders — slightly more than a month before the November elections — for failing to support women’s reproductive rights. The senators are “approaching this as an issue of discrimination against women,” said Sen….

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, birth control, health insurance

October 1, 2014 at 6:01 AM

With huge variability in hospital prices, patients must beware

A comparison of costs for the treatment of heart failure in Washington, from Washington Health Alliance.

A comparison of costs for the treatment of heart failure in Washington, from Washington Health Alliance.

The American health-care system is befuddling in so many ways, but the variation in hospital prices is among the most confounding.

The price for back surgery at Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center can cost $46,000 — three times as much as it costs at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center. If you’re looking for knee or hip replacement, at $92,000 you could wind up paying four-times more at Multicare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup than the $23,000 price tag at Wenatchee Valley Hospital.

Across the state and for services ranging from urinary tract infections to strokes, the prices for care are two, three or even four times more expensive from one facility to another.

And with insurance plans boosting the amount of costs that patients have to pay while covering smaller networks of hospitals and doctors, these price differences can hit consumers hard.

“Understanding hospital sticker prices in advance of a hospital stay can help both insured and uninsured patients reduce sticker shock,” said John Gallagher, spokesman for Washington Health Alliance, a nonprofit that released the cost comparisons in a new report.

“Because more out-of-pocket costs are being shifted to consumers and because unpaid medical bills have become a leading reason for personal bankruptcy, it’s important for health consumers to understand the financial risks they might face as patients―whether they have insurance or not,” he said in an email.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, All-Payer Claims Database, health insurance

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

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