health insurance

In 2014, Washington’s Medicaid program resumed covering dental care for adults. That was celebrated by advocates for the poor. But on Thursday, a panel of lawmakers will hear about ongoing challenges to that program.

Cover Oregon, Oregon’s failed health insurance sign-up website, continues to serve as political fodder, more than two years after state officials pulled the plug. Congressional Republicans have now asked for a federal criminal investigation into the Cover Oregon website mess.

The share of Oregonians and Washingtonians without health insurance has dropped dramatically under Obamacare. The uninsured rate is now at a historic low in the West Coast states.

Idaho has missed out on that trend, largely because the state until now has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility on the federal dime. Idaho's Republican-controlled legislature was teetering Friday on whether to end its holdout.

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.

Customers of Portland-based health insurance company Moda should rest assured their policies will be honored. That was the message from state regulators Monday after they announced a consent order meant to keep the company afloat.

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?

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

Rowan Moore Gerety / Northwest News Network

At the Yakima County courthouse, Presiding District Court Judge Kevin Roy walks past a rattling dot-matrix printer and long rows of color-coded folders to a shelf of files awaiting his signature. “If I was to pull one of these files, Judge Roy says, taking one from the shelf, “Yep, Memorial Physicians, PLLC. That’s not by luck.”

TGPRN Premera Blue Cross / Associated Press

Washington state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler announced Tuesday he’ll lead a multi-state investigation of Premera Blue Cross. That follows the cyber attack that may have compromised the social security numbers and medical information of 11 million customers in January.

Kreidler said Premera owes the public a more detailed explanation.

Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange is one step closer to being dismantled.

Cover Oregon

One of the first things legislators are expected to do when the session starts next week, is to put an end to 'Cover Oregon'. The state's failed health insurance exchange.

Speaking about the up-coming session, Democrats, Republicans and Governor John Kitzhaber all agree: 'Cover Oregon' is finished.

"What we'll simply be doing is folding the remaining functions of what was 'Cover Oregon' into the insurance division," Kitzhaber said.

The leader of the Senate Republicans, Ted Ferrioli, agreed.

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.

Flickr

Currently, if a doctor wants to talk to a patient about dying, he or she has to do it off-the-clock. They can't bill insurance companies for the time.

Portland Democrat, Earl Blumenauer, says he has 60 co-sponsors for his bill to allow such conversations to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

"It will pay for a 93-year-old woman with terminal cancer to have her hip replaced, but it won't pay a couple of hundred bucks for the doctor to have a conversation with this woman and her family to find out what her wishes are," he said.

Washington Insurer Settles Suit Over Autism Treatment

Oct 17, 2014
bloomsberries / Flickr

The biggest health insurance company in Washington, Regence BlueShield, has settled a pair of class action lawsuits for $6 million.

Families with autistic children took the company to court over its failure to cover a treatment known as 'Applied Behavioral Therapy.' It involves extensive one-on-one work between a child and a therapist, and can cost $50,000 a year or more.

Cover Oregon

The leaders of Oregon's struggling health insurance exchange will be grilled by state lawmakers in a series of hearings at the capitol on Monday and Tuesday.

Medicaid Payment Woes Plague Idaho Mental-Health Providers

Aug 25, 2014
Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The state’s effort to rein in Medicaid costs has created deep friction between small businesses that deliver behavioral-health services to Medicaid patients and a new contractor hired to manage them.

Alex Proimos / Wikimedia

Health plans in Washington state can’t refuse to cover services for transgender people if the same procedures are covered for others. That’s the message from the state insurance commissioner, who says he’ll take action against insurers who don’t comply.

Washington’s Insurance Commissioner wants to notify consumers if their insurance company is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Oregon's Obamacare health insurance exchange is finally getting some traction after a shaky beginning.

Leadership Changes At Cover Oregon

Nov 22, 2013
Orna Izakson / Wikimedia Commons

"We are putting all hands on deck to make sure again that everyone who wants and needs health coverage in this state, is able to get it and get enrolled in a plan by January 1st," says John Kitzhaber.
He announced two main staffing changes.

The head of Cover Oregon is acknowledging the troubles of the health insurance exchange. But Rocky King described the system as “unfinished”, rather than “broken.” Oregon lawmakers are questioning King Wednesday in hearings on why Cover Oregon has failed to sign up even one customer. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman says despite the troubled rollout, King's job doesn't appear to be in immediate jeopardy.

Oregon’s online health insurance exchange won’t be up and running in time for people to get covered by the beginning of the year.

Medicare open enrollment season ends Friday for those looking to change or sign onto a health program. A Washington state agency has open arms for those scrambling for insurance advice.

Photo Credit: Tom Varco/Wikimedia Commons

Just in time for open enrollment season—insurance companies are required to explain health benefits in plain language. The new requirement is part of the affordable care act that takes effect this week.