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One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act was a tax credit for small employers that pay their employees’ health-insurance premiums. In 2010 through 2013, companies that have fewer than 25 employees and meet a few other criteria could receive up to 35 percent of the premiums back in tax credits. So far, more than $1 billion has been provided in credits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2014, the ACA mandated those employers to buy their plans through the state or federal exchanges to receive the credit, which was increased to 50 percent maximum and made available for two years.

There was only one problem: In Washington state, the small business exchange program, called Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP, is only available in two counties, Cowlitz and Clark. read more »


Several trends dominated headlines in health care this year: the arrival of state and federal health exchanges, the push to develop outpatient clinics directly in communities, and ongoing hospital consolidation.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

The exchange

The Washington insurance exchange was the state’s health care news story of 2013.

The state chose to expand Medicaid and get an early jump on the massive technical undertaking that would eventually become known as the Healthplanfinder, an online marketplace for health coverage. read more »

Cover Story

Graphic shows sources for $203 billion in annual U.S. spending on Alzheimer's care. (Alzheimer's Association)When Pat March’s mother, Carol, showed signs of dementia about four years ago, healthcare providers were “reluctant to put the cards on the table” about what was happening. After a neurological evaluation, they diagnosed Carol with mild cognitive impairment.

“They were giving her arcane descriptions,” said March, who lives in Poulsbo. “A mild cognitive impairment is a way to not say dementia.”

Carol moved this past fall into the newly opened memory care section of Madrona House (see story here) on Bainbridge Island, where March and her sister can visit regularly. read more »

Health And Fitness

The dining room in the assisted-living area of the newly opened Madrona House on Bainbridge Island. (Paul Sanders Photography)Bainbridge Senior Living opened a new premier assisted-living and memory-care community on Bainbridge Island in November called Madrona House. The 50,000-square-foot, four-story facility includes 21 luxury assisted-living units on the first two floors and four pods, or “neighborhoods,” on the top two floors. Each pod can accommodate up to 15 people. read more »


With Harrison Medical Center’s affiliation with Franciscan Health System completed, one of the changes Harrison is making is to its electronic health records system. Harrison will be switching to Epic, an EHR vendor that Franciscan began using last year.

Franciscan began the transition to Epic last summer, and the completed phases include St. Anthony Hospital among other facilities. Work on the Harrison transition also has begun, but the implementation will be done in one phase instead and the new system is expected to go live in July.

Franciscan’s chief nursing officer, Laurie Brown, said the organization had been using a different EHR vendor but decided to switch because Epic offers better options. It’s also widely used by many health-care providers in the Northwest. read more »


Retired physicians and West Sound Free Clinic volunteers Dr. Pat Tracy, left, and Dr. Jim Baker stand next to the clinic's "headquarters," a retired ambulance, at a Stand Down for Vets event last April. (Courtesy photo)For the past year, many West Sound residents who cannot afford health care have been receiving a variety of medical services, thanks to volunteer physicians and other medical providers operating under the auspices of West Sound Free Clinic.

The mobile West Sound Free Clinic — what may be the first-ever free clinic in Kitsap — opened in October 2012 under the umbrella of Christian Medical Response Team, a Silverdale-based nonprofit founded by local physician Dan Diamond. read more »

AWB Commentary

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler made national news when he quickly rejected President Obama’s call for insurers to extend individual health insurance policies cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as Obamacare.

While 5 million insurance policies have been cancelled to date, the Obama administration estimated that as many as 18 million of these policies will be cancelled because of the ACA.

Here in Washington state, some 290,000 people have already received cancellation notices. While Kreidler and Obamacare supporters say the coverage was substandard anyway, those policies were all accepted by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. read more »


Representatives of Washington state’s new health insurance exchange will hold an enrollment event Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Olympic College campus in Bremerton.

A specially outfitted trailer, complete with laptops connected to Washington Healthplanfinder, is traveling around Washington on the Mobile Enrollment Tour. At each stop, local in-person assisters will help people without health insurance understand the new health plans and financial help that are now available.

Trained enrollment experts from Kitsap Public Health District, which is the local lead organization for the exchange, and their community partners will be available at the stop in Bremerton to answer questions and help people sign up for health coverage. read more »


SEATTLE — According to a new survey released Nov. 12, almost all adults in Washington believe that oral health is important to their overall health. These views are supported by medical, dental and public health experts who confirm that good oral health is an essential part of being healthy and fit.

Despite the proven connection between oral health and overall health, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t include dental care for adults. However, Washington state is considering adding adult dental coverage to the exchange in 2015. Polling shows that the majority of people in Washington believe that oral health is important.

A statewide survey of 1,200 adults over age 25 released by the Washington Dental Service (WDS) Foundation reveals read more »

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