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The Washington Health Benefit Exchange began its final push before the March 31 signup deadline with a series of promotions targeting the younger demographic. The promotional outreach includes partnerships with hockey leagues and roller derby teams around the state, including Bremerton’s Slaughter County Roller Vixens.

“In order to break through and reach new audiences, we have to be in unexpected places,” said Michael Marchand, director of communications for Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Ice hockey and roller derby bouts target our key demographic of young adults and families who may not be aware of the new opportunities that are available through our state.” read more »


One of the hottest buzzwords in health care is “big data” — the cure being touted for everything from bloated costs to disjointed patient care.

The promise is that the rising torrent of data on every diagnosis, treatment and medical bill can be analyzed to provide pinpoint patient care with less waste and more transparency.

But all this data won’t improve health care if the information is faulty or gets poorly interpreted — or becomes a substitute for quality patient interaction.

“We don’t want to just move garbage at the speed of light,” said Dr. Gary Kaplan, CEO of Virginia Mason. read more »

No fines for most employers until 2016 as firms pressure White House in wake of troubled rollout

Most employers won’t face a fine next year if they fail to offer workers health insurance, the Obama administration said Feb. 10, in the latest big delay of the health law rollout.

The Treasury Department, in regulations outlining the Affordable Care Act, said employers with 50 to 99 full-time workers won’t have to comply with the law’s requirement to provide insurance or pay a fee until 2016. Companies with more workers could avoid some penalties in 2015 if they showed they were offering coverage to at least 70 percent of full-time workers.

The move came after employers pressured the Obama administration to peel back the law’s insurance requirements. Some firms had trimmed workers’ hours to below 30 hours a week to avoid paying a penalty if they didn’t offer insurance. read more »


While Washington’s health exchange has struggled with ongoing technical problems, nearly 700,000 people have successfully navigated the system to enroll in commercial health plans or Medicaid.

That number isn’t widely reported, because nearly 260,000 of those people were just re-enrolling in Medicaid.

While those numbers of re-enrollments don’t count toward “new” enrollees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they are a testament to the volume of enrollments the Healthplanfinder site has been able to handle successfully. read more »


Providence and Swedish medical centers have received federal approval to participate in a Medicare program that rewards hospital systems with a payout when they save the feds money on health care.

Providence, which governs Swedish, created the Accountable Care Organization, which is one of 123 new ACOs across the country that the feds recently approved to partner with Medicare. The Providence/Swedish ACO is the only new one approved in Washington, and just the third in the state since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services started offering the opportunity.

ACOs are partnerships between health care providers with the goal of slowing the growth of medical costs while improving quality of care. ACOs that operate in partnership with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) aim to win federal incentive payments when they hit targets for cheaper, better care. read more »


The Washington state health exchange has enrolled more than 248,000 people in health plans through Medicaid and private insurance plans.

In the past three months, Healthplanfinder has enrolled about 71,000 people (about 29 percent of the total) in commercial health insurance plans, and another 177,000 in Medicaid plans.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange missed its goal of enrolling 130,000 people in commercial health plans by the end of 2013, but another 72,000 people have applied for private coverage and have not yet paid. Once those payments are complete, the number of private enrollments will be above that benchmark. read more »


About 1,200 Kitsap residents with health insurance through UnitedHealthcare will no longer be able to use Harrison Medical Center as their in-network provider. UnitedHealthcare dropped the hospital system from coverage at the end of November after negotiations with Harrison failed to reach an agreement on reimbursement rates.

Harrison CEO Scott Bosch wrote in a letter sent to patients that UnitedHealthcare has refused to negotiate “reasonable rate terms,” and that Harrison is disappointed “we’ve been unable to reach an agreement with UnitedHealthcare regarding fair payment for our physician and hospital services.”

UnitedHealthcare reportedly disputed its refusal to negotiate. read more »


Amidst all the confusion, broken promises, false starts, delays, changes and mounting costs, 2014 is the year the president and Congress must rethink the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Millions of people have lost their individual coverage and the administration has predicted that tens of millions more will lose their employer-sponsored coverage when the postponed employer mandate is triggered in 2015. Millions more are experiencing sticker shock because of higher premiums and deductibles.

Now, as we enter 2014, the Obamacare taxes and fees are kicking in. read more »


More than 5,800 Kitsap residents had enrolled in the state’s health benefit exchange through November. The majority of them qualified for Medicaid — only 735 signed up for private plans, both subsidized and unsubsidized.

Kitsap reflects the statewide trend. Of the more than 179,000 enrollments, more than 159,000 are for Medicaid.

Individuals had until Dec. 23 to enroll for coverage that starts on Jan. 1. The state, however, extended the payment deadline to Jan. 15 for those who’ve tried to complete enrollment by Dec. 23 but received error messages. December enrollment figures will not be available until mid-January.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s target was 130,000 enrollments by Jan. 1, spokesperson Bethany Frey said. Not only did 179,330 people complete the registration, but another 126,000 were in process before Dec. 1. read more »

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