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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.

January 8, 2015 at 6:46 PM

With 107,000 enrollees, Washington is halfway to insurance sign-up goal

Washington is halfway to its goal for insurance signups through the state’s Washington Healthplanfinder exchange, according to numbers released Thursday.

But with more than 107,000 people buying health insurance from Healthplanfinder through the end of December, the exchange still hasn’t caught up to the number of people enrolled before the signups for the current enrollment period began in mid-November.

That raises the pressure to reach the state’s target of 215,000 customers in the six weeks left until the Feb. 15 close of enrollment for this year.

It’s “an aggressive target,” said Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the online insurance marketplace.

So far only 80,000 of the 140,000 former customers that enrolled in the first enrollment have renewed their plans through the state, according to officials. Their goal is for 130,000 of their past customers to renew their coverage, plus they hope to sign up 85,000 new enrollees. People needed to renew or sign up by late December to ensure there would be no gap in their coverage beginning Jan. 1.

“We would like that [renewal] number to be higher, to be as close to 100 percent as possible,” Frey said. “It’s hard to know why they’re not coming back, but every customer has gotten letters or emails” reminding them to re-enroll.

Most of the customers who haven’t returned have unpaid balances on their insurance for 2014, Frey said. But legally people can still sign up for a plan for next year, even if they still owe on past coverage.

Insurance enrollment numbers are more favorable elsewhere in the country during this second round of signups under the Affordable Care Act.

Roughly 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance or were automatically renewed for coverage by late December, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s an increase of  approximately 400,000 people compared with how many were enrolled before the new sign-up period started. The renewal process through the federal exchange was more passive for customers, Frey said, which could result in higher numbers for states using that exchange. 

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

December 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

For health insurance starting Jan. 1, enroll by 5 p.m. today

Washington consumers who want health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1 must renew or sign up and make their first payment by 5 p.m. today. So far only half of the 130,000 customers who currently have health insurance purchased through the state’s online exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, have taken steps to renew their plans for 2015. Most of…

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

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 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

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

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