Author Archives: LocalHealthGuide

Enrollment in Washington exchange tops one million


Coverage is hereMore than 1 million Washington state residents enrolled in health insurance plans during the open enrollment period that began October 1 and ran through March 31st, Washington state officials said Wednesday.

The staff at the exchange,, worked with thousands of customers over the past few weeks to help individuals finalize their applications after the March 31 deadline, many of whom were unable to complete their applications due to technical reasons or experienced other barriers to enrollment, officials said.

The Exchange continues to work with a small percentage of customers to finalize any remaining applications, officials said.

Here is a breakout of the enrollment numbers: Continue reading


Is bigger better? Idaho hospital battle a microcosm of debate over industry consolidation


This KHN story was produced in collaboration with wapo

NAMPA, Idaho - When Idaho’s largest hospital system bought the state’s largest doctor practice in 2012, the groups expressed hope that the deal would spark a revolution in delivering better-quality care.

Instead, it ignited a costly legal battle with state and federal regulators and rival hospital systems.

Officials at Boise-based St. Luke’s Health System thought they had the Obama administration on their side because the federal health law encourages hospitals to collaborate with doctors to improve quality and lower costs.

David Pate is president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System. St. Luke’s is one of dozens of hospitals nationwide to form Medicare accountable care organizations, agreeing to coordinate care with the prospect of qualifying for government bonuses if they hit cost and quality targets (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

David Pate is president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System. St. Luke’s is one of dozens of hospitals nationwide to form Medicare accountable care organizations, agreeing to coordinate care with the prospect of qualifying for government bonuses if they hit cost and quality targets (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

But the Federal Trade Commission filed suit, arguing that St. Luke’s purchase of the 43-physician Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa was anticompetitive and would lead to higher prices for Idaho patients.

A federal judge agreed in January, and his order to dissolve the merger has put this picturesque Boise suburb at the center of a national debate over the consolidation of American medicine.

The decision pushed back against the merger mania gripping the health care industry, raising questions about whether larger health systems really do rein in spending and improve care, or whether they fuel higher prices in the long run.  Continue reading


New study again finds higher rate of rare neurological birth defects in central Washington


Washington MapA new study has again found a higher rate of a rare neurological birth defect, anencephaly, in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties, Washington state health officials said Tuesday.

The study identified seven cases of the birth defect in these three counties in 2013, which translates into a rate of 8.7 per 10,000 births. That rate is similar to the rate seen in 2010-2012 and remains well above the national rate of 2.1 per 10,000 births, health officials said. Continue reading


Obama sharply criticizes Republicans as he announces 8 million have enrolled


Enrollment in private health insurance on federal and state marketplaces has surged in recent weeks and now totals 8 million, a feisty President Barack Obama said Thursday.

“This thing is working,” Obama said at a White House news conference in which he lambasted Republican critics of the health law, especially those in states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility, as the law allows.

“I’m sorry. I’m going to say one last thing about this — just because this — this does frustrate me, states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite,” Obama said. “You got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now, at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states – [yet] other than ideological reasons, they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.” Continue reading


Obama announces 8 million have enrolled in Marketplace plans


In a White House news conference Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that 8 million people have enrolled in health plans through the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act and that 35 percent of people who enrolled on the federally run marketplace are under age 35.

A transcript follows. Continue reading


Nearly 350,000 in Washington have enrolled in private plans since Oct. 1


ACA health reform logoSince October 1, when the open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act, 324,900 people in Washington state have signed up for private insurance, according to updated enrollment information reported by health insurers to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner this week.

This number includes 178,981 enrolled outside the Exchange and 146,000 enrolled inside the Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, as of March 31. The total is expected to increase as late enrollments through the Exchange are processed and reconciled.  Continue reading


State disciplines healthcare providers — April 16th


Seal_of_WashingtonPeriodically Washington State Department of Health issues an update on disciplinary actions taken against health care providers, including suspensions and revocations of licenses, certifications, or registrations of providers in the state.

The department also suspends the credentials of people who have been prohibited from practicing in other states.

Information about health care providers is also on the agency’s website.

To find this information click on “Provider Credential Search” on the left hand side of the Department of Health home page (

The site includes information about a health care provider’s license status, the expiration and renewal date of their credential, disciplinary actions and copies of legal documents issued after July 1998.

This information is also available by calling 360-236-4700.

Consumers who think a health care provider acted unprofessionally are also encouraged to call and report their complaint.

Here is the April 16th update issued by the Washington State Department of Health: Continue reading


Health law’s free contraceptive coverage saved US women $483 million in 2013


Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleThe Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.

“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.

To learn more read: 

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and the shifting costs of healthcare: A review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. LINK:


Doctors who shun insurance, offering care for cash


200px-Flag-map_of_TexasBy Alexa Ura, The Texas Tribune
APR 11, 2014

This story was produced in partnership with 

LAREDO — For 12 hours a day, the waiting room at Dr. Gustavo Villarreal’s family practice is often packed with patients, people who will pay a flat $50 fee for the convenience — or necessity — of a walk-in, quick-turn doctor’s visit.

Villarreal’s practice, which does not accept any form of health insurance, has thrived despite its location in a city where nearly one-third of the population lives below the federal poverty line. Continue reading


Measles update: WA case count grows to 12, extending to third county


Kitsap County resident confirmed with measles; exposure likely in San Juan County


From the Washington State Department of Health:

Alert IconApril 11, 2014 - Measles continues to spread in Washington as cases in San Juan County have extended to a Kitsap County resident. A man in his 40s from Kitsap visited several places in Friday Harbor, including a restaurant where a contagious San Juan County man was at the same time.

San Juan County’s case count is now five, and Kitsap County has one. In Whatcom County, the case count remains at six.  Continue reading


State exchange directors offer enrollment snapshots


 Washington MapRichard K. Onizuka from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange reports that 136,497 of Washington state’s 146,000 new enrollees have already paid their premiums. Almost twice as many people, 268,000, gained Medicaid coverage, he added, and 8,000 people signed up on March 31.


By Lisa Gillespie
APRIL 11TH, 2014,

The Obama administration is touting the success of the health law’s open enrollment, which signed up  at least 7.5 million Americans for health coverage through the online insurance marketplaces.

But the experience varied according to states and Families USA brought together five state exchange directors Thursday to talk about what they’ve seen so far. These states – Kentucky, New York, Washington, California and Connecticut — all had functioning exchanges and pursued that health law’s Medicaid expansion.  Continue reading