health care

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has scheduled a press conference Monday morning to give his take on the legislative session that just ended. At the top of the list of topics is whether the governor might take executive action to expand Medicaid under a provision of Obamacare.

The state of Washington spends about $1 billion per year on prescription drugs -- that’s state and federal funds. And the cost has been going up. Now some state lawmakers are wondering if there’s a way to drive a better bargain. Or at least shed some new light on how drugs are priced.

The process for getting a new drug approved in the U.S. takes years. If you’re very sick, it can be incredibly frustrating to learn a potential cure is out there, but may not reach the market in time to save your life.

State Health Care officials say they'll be notifying 91,000 Medicaid clients they've been affected by a data breach.

Officials with the Washington State Health Care Authority today said they discovered that the private information of 91,000 Apple Health clients was mishandled by two employees.

The information includes clients’ Social Security numbers, dates of birth, Apple Health client ID numbers and private health information.

The agency says the breach was discovered during a whistle blower investigation into misuse of state resources.

People from three Pacific island nations have the right to live and work in the United States, thanks to a unique 1986 treaty. But a separate Congressional action 20 years ago means that they are not eligible for Medicaid -- even those who become taxpayers.

Many have settled in Oregon, where lawmakers will consider a bill in February that would require the state to subsidize medical care for people from these nations.

The Marshall Islands are an independent nation made up of more than 1,000 small islands near the equator, about 2,000 miles southwest of Hawaii.

MathTeacherGuy / flickr

With the start of a new year comes an increase in health care costs for many local employers and workers. The average increase for 2016 health plan premiums reviewed by the state insurance departments of Oregon, Washington and Idaho significantly exceeded the rate of inflation. So, what's driving health care costs in 2016?

Washington prison inmates who suffer from “serious and painful medical conditions” are often denied adequate healthcare. That’s the allegation contained in a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle this week.

Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

Faced with a shortage of primary care doctors, more and more clinics are relying on nurse practitioners to fill the gap. But that creates another gap, in the level of training providers bring to the job. Residency programs--once reserved for physicians--are popping up for nurse practitioners as well.

By 2018, the state of Washington should have a treasure trove of data on the cost and quality of health care.

Carline Jean MCT / Landov

The nonprofit community health centers of Washington are concerned about the latest action by lawmakers dealing with money from marijuana sales in the state.

Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana, mandated that 5 percent of tax revenues from pot sales go to nonprofit community health centers.

But the public policy director for Community Health Network, Molly Belozer Firth, said the House and Senate have both proposed budgets that divert that money elsewhere, rather than to what they see as a priority, serving the uninsured.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers will introduce a bill Wednesday that will allow people to use some oils extracted from cannabis plants. Idaho currently does not allow any form of medical marijuana. But other states without medical pot have passed exemptions similar to this new bill.

AndreyPopov / Flickr

The ACLU of Washington is launching an effort to ensure that hospitals are following the state’s abortion rights laws.

Thursday the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to have Skagit Regional Health comply with Washington’s Reproductive Privacy Act, or RPA.

The ACLU’s Doug Hoening says the public hospital has a policy of not providing abortion services, in violation of state law.

Hoening says The ACLU also has sent letters to three other public hospital districts in Mason County, Jefferson County, and Whidbey Island that have the same policy:

Centers for Disease Control

Some Northwest lawmakers want to make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest Public Radio

There's a small but growing trend in healthcare--a trend where doctors are paid differently, so they can focus on a relationship with their patients, and where patients are able to see doctors without worrying  about the cost.

Idaho A Medical Destination For Canadian Boomers

Dec 1, 2014
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A hospital in North Idaho is marketing itself to Canadian tourists -- medical tourists, that is.

Most of the patients who come into Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls, Idaho, are from the local area -- plus a few from Washington and Montana.

North Idaho College /

A community college in Idaho today received a major grant to train people in rural areas for hard-to-fill jobs in the health care industry. The $6.4 million dollar grant is the largest in the school’s history. It’s part of a job training program set up in the 2009 stimulus package.

Lita Burns is the vice president of instruction at North Idaho College (NIC) in Coeur d’Alene, the school that got the grant. She says hospitals have told them it’s hard to get people trained as technicians and assistants to relocate from another state. This includes EMTs and dental assistants.

Wash. Must Find 200 Beds For Psychiatric Patients

Aug 14, 2014
Fotos GOVBA / Flickr

The state of Washington is scrambling to find beds by Aug. 27 for an estimated 200 mental health patients by Aug. 27. That's when the state must comply with a Washington Supreme Court ruling that said detaining psychiatric patients in emergency room beds is unlawful.

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

Washington State University’s mascot is the cougar, but the university is also home to the nation’s only captive grizzly bear research center. Correspondent Tom Banse reports a new study involving those bears yields insights into possible therapies for human obesity and diabetes.

Bridget Coila / Flickr

Investigators still aren’t sure what is causing a cluster of birth defects in central Washington. The rate of the rare defect is four times the national average. Health officials met today to figure out what to do next.

Counties across the Northwest are heavily dependent on timber revenue from federal lands have been struggling to provide public health services. Now, one county in Oregon has told the state it will no longer provide those services. That's left state officials scrambling to figure out how to cover the gap. Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

State High Court Hears Pyschiatric Boarding Case

Jun 26, 2014
Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

Parking mentally ill patients in the ER is controversial yet common. Now the state Supreme Court is considering whether that’s constitutional.

Washington State University

While I have been dinking around for months, trying to lose five pounds, two of my friends have gotten serious about weight loss. Each of them is down 50 pounds.

I’m pleased for them, of course, and truly impressed by their accomplishments. Successfully combating overweight and obesity is one of the best things people can do for their health. It can help everything from joint pain to heart function, from Type 2 diabetes to certain aspects of mental health.

How To Remove A Tick - And Why A Hot Match Won’t Work

May 23, 2014
Washington State Department of Health

Memorial Day weekend in the Northwest coincides with prime time for ticks. These arthropods can drink your blood for days without you knowing.

Washington Needs Your Help In Birth Defect Mystery

May 15, 2014
Courtney Flatt / Earth Fix

Over the past three years, a rare birth defect has shown up Central Washington at about four times the national average. Now, the state health department is turning to the public for clues about what’s causing the fatal defect. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Ragesoss / Wikimedia Commons

Over the past three years, central Washington has seen unusually high numbers of babies born with a rare birth defect. No one has determined a cause. Public health officials are holding two listening sessions this week to learn more from community members.


A disease-causing fungus thought to be confined to the deserts of the Southwest has been discovered in soil samples from eastern Washington. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now trying to figure out if the fungus may be living in other parts of the Northwest.

Northwest Public Radio

Nothing could be better—or healthier—than a walk through the countryside, right?  Wrong.  New research reveals that walking briskly could be better.  "Rock Doc"  Kirsten Peters explains.

My Labrador-mix from the pound, Buster Brown by name, loves to walk with me. On the weekends we often do a six-mile walk around town or along the Snake River where Buster can be off leash (as Mother Nature intends).

Oregon Considers Dumping Health Website

Apr 24, 2014
Cover Oregon

Oregon got more than $300 million from the feds to set up a state-of-the-art website to enroll people in health insurance. About $250 million has already been spent and Cover Oregon thinks it may cost another $78 million to fix the current website that has never been fully functional. 

If you went to see the Kings of Leon concert on March 28 in Seattle, let's hope you came home with nothing but great memories.


You only have until the end of this month to sign up for coverage using one of the new health insurance exchanges. And if you’re planning to do it online at the last minute, how easy that will be depends on where you live in the Northwest.