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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.

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

May 28, 2014 at 2:19 PM

It’s not too late for many residents to get health insurance

Healthplanfinder promotion for its concert ticket sweepstakes.

Healthplanfinder promotion for its concert ticket sweepstakes.

After all the hubbub over the end of open enrollment for individual health insurance, state officials have a message for the uninsured: For many of you, it’s not too late.

That’s because there are  special circumstances that allow people — particularly younger people — to get insured throughout the year. The exemptions are mainly triggered by changes in someone’s family or work situation.

Officials with the state’s insurance exchange are trying to get the word out through a new contest to win free tickets for concerts, sports and other events.

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

April 29, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Poll: Americans think Obamacare missed its goals, support birth control

Almost half of Americans know how many people signed up for health insurance through government exchanges – some 8 million people nationwide – but 57 percent believe the government failed to meet its enrollment goals. They would be wrong.

The Obama administration aimed to enroll 7 million people in health insurance exchanges during the initial six month signup period, which closed March 31. It beat that goal by 1 million, though not all of the enrollees have paid for their insurance.

In Washington, 164,000 people signed up and paid for health insurance in that time. That number fell short of local benchmarks, though the state exceeded its goals for enlisting new Medicaid participants.

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

April 22, 2014 at 3:40 PM

White House thanks Seattle CEO for health-care outreach

Teresita Batayola, CEO of International Community Health Services.

Teresita Batayola, CEO of International Community Health Services.

The White House this week is thanking the leader of a Seattle-based health organization for her work educating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders about the Affordable Care Act.

Teresita Batayola is chief executive officer of International Community Health Services (ICHS), which has medical and dental clinics in neighborhoods including Seattle’s Chinatown International District and at two schools.

During the recent Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period, ICHS staff helped nearly 6,000 people purchase insurance through the state’s insurance exchange and sign up for Medicaid. In addition to working with patients at their clinics, the staff also held enrollment events out in the community.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, International Community Health Services

March 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Washington ranks high for getting lower-income residents insured

Washington is one of the top states for getting people who qualify for tax credits signed up for health insurance. Roughly one-third of the residents with incomes low enough to get a tax break have bought insurance through the state’s insurance exchange.

The number is significant because supporters of the Affordable Care Act are eager to reach people who need help paying their insurance premiums.

Washington residents will receive more than $285 million in tax credits to reduce the amount of their premiums, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation based on data ending March 1. This amount will increase, given that Americans can buy individual insurance plans until March 31 when open enrollment closes for this year.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, tax credit

March 24, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Uninsured Americans not rushing to buy health coverage

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

As the enrollment deadline draws near, more than 125,000 people have purchased health insurance through Washington’s insurance exchange. But there hasn’t been the surge of new signups that supporters were hoping for, and a national poll casts some doubt that a major rush is still to come.

Only 40 percent of uninsured Americans surveyed in a new poll were aware of the March 31 deadline for purchasing individual insurance this year.

When reminded of the date and requirement that they get insurance or pay a penalty, half said they are not planning to get coverage, according to a survey being released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Four-in-10 uninsured Americans said they did plan to get insurance.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced an easy process for people to apply for extensions to the deadline if they were trying to buy insurance through federally-managed exchanges. Washington residents can also request extensions, but they have to meet more stringent requirements.

Washington’s insurance exchange, called Healthplanfinder, is nationally recognized as one of the more successful marketplaces. But a week before enrollment is set to close for the year, the exchange still had not met its January sales goal of 130,000 people.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, health insurance

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