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HealthCare Checkup

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

Topic: health insurance

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

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

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

October 22, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Aetna deal promises more affordable, better health care in Puget Sound

Insurance giant Aetna on Thursday announced that it had struck a deal with four well-known networks of doctors, clinics and hospitals to provide what it says will be more affordable, higher quality care in the Puget Sound area.

Participants include The Polyclinic, Providence-Swedish Health Alliance, Rainier Health Network and Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed). Seattle Children’s Hospital is included in all four networks.

The arrangements follow an increasingly popular health care model known as accountable care organizations, or ACOs. In ACOs or ACO-like systems a network of providers contracts with an insurance company, government program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or directly with an employer.

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Comments | Topics: Accountable Care Organizations, health insurance, Medicare

October 20, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Court, Kreidler bolster mental-health coverage

Washington residents will be able to recover some of their medical costs for certain mental health services. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is sending letters instructing insurance companies to identify and inform policyholders whose insurance claims were denied for mental-health care that they have a right to have those claims re-evaluated, provided that they were…

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Comments | Topics: health insurance, Mike Kreidler

October 13, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Medicare Advantage, drug plan enrollments start Oct. 15

Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug coverage (Part D) begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. “Many Medicare plans are changing again this year,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler in a press release. “Open enrollment is the time to shop for the best plan that meets your needs.” The state offers free assistance…

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Comments | Topics: health insurance, Medicare, Office of the Insurance Commissioner

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

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