Category Archives: News

Group Health ends 15-year relationship with Virginia Mason, switches to Swedish – Puget Sound Business Journal


Group Health IconGroup Health has signed an agreement with Swedish Health Services to provide Group Health’s Seattle-based hospital services, a decision that will end a 15-year-long acute-care relationship with Virginia Mason.

via Group Health ends 15-year relationship with Virginia Mason, switches to Swedish – Puget Sound Business Journal.


Some insurers refuse to cover contraceptives, despite health law requirement


nuvaring contraceptiveBy Michelle Andrews

How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they’ll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut?

Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying.

Kaiser Health News readers still write in regularly describing battles they’re waging to get the birth control coverage they’re entitled to.

“We’ve seen this happen, plenty.”

In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing.

This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina, works for three weeks at a time by releasing hormones similar to those used by birth control pills. Continue reading


Healthplanfinder: ‘Moderately effective,’ could improve | HealthCare Checkup | Seattle Times


report-card-thumbHow does Washington’s online exchange marketplace compare with those in other states?

As part of an ongoing study, the nonprofit Urban Institute assessed how well state exchanges created  under the Affordable Care Act provide the sort of information consumers want to know about insurance plans they’re considering buying.

via Healthplanfinder: ‘Moderately effective,’ could improve | HealthCare Checkup | Seattle Times.


Always Hungry? Here’s the Real Reason Why | RAND


French FriesMost Americans recognize the difference between “empty-stomach” hunger and urges caused by the smell of popcorn at the movies or the sight of candy in the checkout line. Nonetheless, it’s hard to resist. America is a food swamp, says Deborah A. Cohen, where cheap, convenient food is everywhere, and marketing exploits human tendencies.

Always Hungry? Here’s the Real Reason Why | RAND.


Are your medical records vulnerable to theft?


This KHN story also ran in .

A decade ago almost all doctors kept paper charts on every patient. That is changing quickly as laptops become as common as stethoscopes in exam rooms. Recent hacking attacks have raised questions about how safe that data may be.

Here are some frequently asked questions about this evolution underway in American medicine and the government programs sparking the change.

Are my medical records stored electronically? Continue reading


Can’t find a doctor in your hometown? Sen. Murray wants to help – Puget Sound Business Journal


Washington MapSen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is making the rounds in her home state, meeting with local healthcare leaders to promote legislation that would help train 1,500 primary care doctors to help treat people in underserved communities in the U.S.

via Can’t find a doctor in your hometown? Sen. Murray wants to help – Puget Sound Business Journal.


‘Pastoral counselors’ help fill mental health gap in rural states


Mental health therapists most often leave issues of faith outside their office doors, even for patients who are religious. But one class of counselors believes a nonsectarian model doesn’t serve everyone equally well.

“On a feeling level, people want a safe, respectful place, to ponder the tons of questions that come begging in hard times,” said Glenn Williams, a pastoral counselor in Kentucky and chair of the Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors. “Where is God?  Why did this happen?  Is it karma, sowing-reaping, happenstance?  What purpose does this suffering serve?”

Six states allow these counselors – who include faith and spirituality in their work – to be licensed mental health counselors, which can make it easier for them to get health insurance reimbursements.

Williams, who works at the St. Matthews Pastoral Counseling Center outside Louisville, said many of his patients are quite “intentional” about their preference for pastoral counselors over other mental health professionals.

Kentucky recently became the sixth state (joining Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee) to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. Continue reading


Led by medical school, UW ranked No. 15 among world’s best universities – Puget Sound Business Journal


University-of-Washington-Logo-300x300UW was ranked No. 3 in clinical medicine and pharmacy in 2014, behind Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco, and ahead of Johns Hopkins University. UW was ranked No. 6 in life sciences in 2014.

via Led by medical school, UW ranked No. 15 among world’s best universities – Puget Sound Business Journal.


HMO, PPO, or EPO – Which Health Plan Is Best?


What’s in a name? When it comes to health plans sold on the individual market, these days it’s often less than people think.

The lines that distinguish HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and POS plans from one another have blurred, making it hard to know what you’re buying by name alone–assuming you’re one of the few people who know what an EPO is in the first place.

“Now, there’s a lot of gray out there,” says Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

Ideally, plan type provides a shorthand way to determine what sort of access members have to providers outside a plan’s network, including cost-sharing for such treatment, among other things.

But since there are no industry-wide definitions of plan types and state standards vary, individual insurers often have leeway to market similar plans under different names.

In general: Continue reading


San Antonio police take radical approach to mental illness — Treat It

san antonio 3 300

Officers Ned Bandoske, left, and Ernest Stevens  (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN).

This KHN story also ran on NPR.

SAN ANTONIO — It’s almost 4 p.m., and Officers Ernest Stevens and Ned Bandoske have been driving around town in their black unmarked SUV since early this morning.

When it first came out, I was very skeptical. I thought, well this is ridiculous.

The officers are part of San Antonio’s mental health squad – a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue.

The officers spot a call for help on their laptop from a group home across town.

“A male individual put a blanket on fire this morning, he’s arguing with them, and is a danger to himself and others, he’s off his medications,” Stevens reads from the blotter.

san antonio 2 300

Officer Stevens talks to a young man named Mason, who has set his blanket on fire and says he is hearing voices (Photo by Jenny Gold/KHN)

A few minutes later, the SUV pulls up in front of the group home in a run-down part of the city.  A thin 24-year-old sits on a wooden bench in a concrete lot out back, wearing a black hoodie. His bangs hang in damp curls over his forehead.

“You’re Mason?” asks Bandoske. “What happened to your blanket?”

Eight years ago, a person like Mason would have been heading to the emergency room or jail next. Continue reading


More Hospitals Use the Healing Powers of Public Art – WSJ


Researchers are learning more about the precise ways paintings and other works of art help patients and families in the healing process. With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain’s reaction to pain, stress, and anxiety, hospitals are considering and choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors.

via More Hospitals Use the Healing Powers of Public Art – WSJ.


Premera, Seattle Children’s Hospital reach agreement; Regence is in the works


MKreidlerPhotoBy Mike Kreidler
Seattle Children’s Hospital and Premera Blue Cross today reached an agreement to include the hospital in its medical networks, effective Sept. 1.

Seattle Children’s Hospital initiated legal proceedings about a year ago when Premera, Regence Blue Shield and Coordinated Care decided against including the hospital and research facility in their medical networks because of cost concerns.

Regence is working with the hospital on its own agreement, which could be done this week. Continue reading


Premera to include Children’s in its networks – PSBJ


Seattle Children's Whale LogoSeattle Children’s Hospital will be included in the Premera Blue Cross health insurance networks through 2017 as a result of an agreement that ends a lengthy legal dispute.

via Legal wrangling pays off: Seattle Children’s, Premera make nice – Puget Sound Business Journal.


West Nile virus infection confirmed in Washington resident


West nile virus wnvFrom the Washington State Department of Health

A Walla Walla County man is the first Washington resident in 2014 known to have been infected with West Nile virus in our state, Washington State Department of Health officials said Monday.

The man in his 20s was likely exposed near his home and was hospitalized. The infection was confirmed by testing at the Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline.

So far, 34 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus in 2014, including Benton County (11), Franklin County (11), and Grant County (12).

Two other Washington residents have been diagnosed with the infection this year, both with exposures in other states.

A King County man in his 70s and a Grays Harbor woman in her 50s were infected with West Nile virus this year while traveling out of state.

Additional reports of possible infections are currently under investigation. Continue reading


Are nurse practitioners, physician assistants encroaching on specialists’ turf?


One of the hopes embedded in the health law was to expand the role of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in addressing the nation’s shortage of primary care providers. But a new study questions whether that’s actually happening in doctors’ offices.

Mid-level providers – PAs and NPs – “are doing invasive procedures and surgery. I’m not sure they were trained to do that.”

Of the more than 4 million procedures office-based nurse practitioners and physician assistants independently billed more than 5,000 times in a year to Medicare – a list including radiological exams, setting casts and injecting anesthetic agents – more than half were for  dermatological surgeries. Continue reading