Big changes for 2015 workplace plans: Watch out for these six possible pitfalls

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sixBy Jay Hancock
KHN

You don’t get a pass this year on big health insurance decisions because you’re not shopping in an Affordable Care Act marketplace. Employer medical plans — where most working-age folks get coverage — are changing too.

Rising costs, a looming tax on rich benefit packages and the idea that people should buy medical treatment the way they shop for cell phones have increased odds that workplace plans will be very different in 2015.

“If there’s any year employees should pay attention to their annual enrollment material, this is probably the year,” said Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

In other words, don’t blow off the human resources seminars. Ask these questions.

1. Is my doctor still in the network?

Some employers are shifting to plans that look like the HMOs of the 1990s, with limited networks of physicians and hospitals. Provider affiliations change even when companies don’t adopt a “narrow network.”  Continue reading

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Health news headlines – November 19th

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Global health news – November 19th

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Small business plans now available on the SHOP marketplace

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Small business owners: SHOP coverage is now available online at HealthCare.gov.

Start your SHOP application 

Need help? You can contact a SHOP-registered agent or broker in your area or call 1-800-706-7893 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday 9am – 7pm ET.

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Eight Washington hospitals identified for Ebola care

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ebolaAlthough all hospitals in the state are making plans to rapidly identify, isolate and safely evaluate people with suspected Ebola, eight hospitals are preparing to care for a person with Ebola for the duration of the illness.

These are:

  • CHI Franciscan Health (Harrison Medical Center – Bremerton campus),
  • MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital,
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Everett,
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane,
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital,
  • Swedish Medical Center (Issaquah),
  • Virginia Mason Hospital, and
  • UW Medicine (Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center)

“The chance of a confirmed case of Ebola in Washington is very low, but in the event it happens we want to be sure we have the capacity to provide ongoing care to a patient,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state Health Officer. “Patients with Ebola can become critically ill and require intensive care therapy. Care needs to be delivered using strict infection control practices. We are working with each of the committed hospitals to ensure we are coordinated and thorough in our response.” Continue reading

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More states adopting law allowing terminal patients to try experimental treatments

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One dye showing 2By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Earlier this month, Arizona voters approved a referendum that allows terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs and devices. It’s the fifth state to approve a “right-to-try” law this year.

Supporters say the laws give dying patients faster access to potentially life-saving therapies than the Food and Drug Administration’s existing “expanded-access” program, often referred to as “compassionate use.”

Supporters say the laws give dying patients faster access to potentially life-saving therapies. Critics charge such ‘right-to-try” acts are  feel-good laws that don’t address some of the real reasons patients may not receive experimental treatments.

But critics charge they’re feel-good laws that don’t address some of the real reasons patients may not receive experimental treatments.

The legislatures in Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri also passed right-to-try laws this year as part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the conservative Goldwater Institute, which hopes to get right-to-try laws on the books in all 50 states.

The measures generally permit a patient to get access to an experimental drug after it’s passed through phase 1 of a clinical trial, the initial testing in which a drug is given to a small group of people to evaluate its safety and side effects. Continue reading

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Naloxone kits for overdoses now available in Snohomish County

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Snohomish CountyNaloxone kits for treating opioid overdoses are now available at a number of pharmacies in Snohomish County.

These kits are available just by asking the pharmacists, there is no need to see a doctor to obtain a prescription.The cost of the kits is around $125.

Pharmacists will provide education to those being given a Naloxone kit on how to use it and when to use it.

In 2013 there were 86 opioid drug overdoses in Snohomish County, and 580 within Washington State.

The availability of naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) could potentially cut down on deaths due to heroin and prescription opioid drugs (morphine, oxycodone/OxyContin, methadone, hydrocodone/Vicodin, and codeine).  Continue reading

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Health news headlines – November 18th

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Global health news – November 18th

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Obama urges Americans to sign up for health insurance:

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Obama urges Americans to sign up for health insurance:

“From November 15 to February 15, Americans across the country can sign up for a plan at HealthCare.gov and join the 8 million Americans who got covered last year. Need coverage? Go to HealthCare.gov to get started. Already covered? This is where you want to be. Share the facts and meet the faces of health care, then commit to get your friend, family member, or someone you know covered for 2015.”

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Health news headlines – November 17th

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Global health news – November 17th

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Washington Healthplanfinder back up and running

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Coverage is hereWashington Healthplanfinder is back up and running after an opening day glitch caused some visitors to receive incorrect tax credit amounts.

The site was taken offline to address the problem, which is now fixed, Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in a statement this morning.

“We have identified fewer than 800 customers who had their eligibility determined incorrectly and less than 150 hundred customers who scheduled payment. We will be contacting each person to provide them with their accurate tax credit amount,” Onizuka said.

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