Affordable Care Act | KUOW News and Information

Affordable Care Act

Last-minute health insurance shoppers turned up in record numbers Monday, both online and in person at clinics, county health departments and libraries. They were there to sign up for Obamacare on the last official day of open enrollment.

Public radio reporters checked out the scene in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Houston — three of the 36 states that are using HealthCare.gov — as well as in Minnesota, which has one of the most troubled state-run marketplaces.

Congested In Cleveland

Screenshot of Washington Healthplanfinder website

Ross Reynolds sits down with Washington Healthplanfinder spokesman Michael Marchand to get an update on the last day of open enrollment.

Flickr Photo/pnwbot (CC BY-NC-ND)

Search and rescue efforts continue after a massive mudslide engulfed the town of Oso on March 22. A study out of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's office finds who is making $15 minimum wage in the city, and the enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act approaches. 

Steve Scher reviews these stories and more with news analyst Joni Balter, Crosscut's Knute Berger, Eli Sanders of The Stranger and Livewire host Luke Burbank.

With this year's deadline to register for individual health insurance just a weekend away, much attention is being lavished on two numbers — the 6 million Americans who have signed up so far, and the percentage of those folks who are (or aren't) young.

But experts say the national numbers actually don't mean very much.

There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

Next week is the last chance for most people without insurance to sign up for individual health coverage for the remainder of 2014.

Yet according to the latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don't know that.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul.

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees. It is a case that touches lots of hot-button issues.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to a scathing audit from an independent consultant, Oregon's health insurance exchange was riddled with internal conflict and unrealistic expectations.

You only have until the end of this month to sign up for coverage using one of the new health insurance exchanges.

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

If you don’t have health coverage yet, you still have two weeks to sign up. But state officials are urging people not to wait until the last minute. They say there are reasons to enroll sooner — you’ll avoid the surge leading up to the deadline.

2014 is the first year most Americans will have to either have health insurance or face a tax penalty.

But most people who are aware of the penalty think it's pretty small, at least for this first year. And that could turn into an expensive mistake.

Flickr Photo/Still Burning (CC BY-NC-ND)

Health care enrollments so far have been focused on people without insurance. But there’s another population officials are trying to get covered – people locked up behind bars.

The latest figures on who's signing up under the federal health care law tell a surprising story about one of the most conservative states in the country.

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

Washington Healthplanfinder has rolled out a new series of snappy ads aimed at getting young adults to sign up for health care. To date, the enrollment participation for this group is still just above 20 percent.

Flickr Photo/Sara Westermark (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Why does the U.S. spend much more on health care than other nations, yet lag behind in key measures of wellness? KUOW's Ross Reynolds spoke with author and scholar Lauren Taylor about her research on this perennial question.

“We spend exorbitantly on health care in this country," she said. "We’re up above $8,000 per person per year, whereas the average industrialized country is able to spend less than $4,000 per year on health and attains many better outcomes in terms of maternal mortality, life expectancy and infant mortality."

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.

Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

Young, But Not So Invincible

Jan 21, 2014
Flickr Photo/Benjamin Stone

Ross Reynolds talks with one of the so-dubbed young invincibles, 23-year-old Ursula Swantner, about her experience signing up for health care through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website, and why she's glad she did.

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

You don’t often hear Justin Timberlake and health insurance in the same sentence. But this Friday, fans going to Key Arena to get their dose of Justin Timberlake will also get a chance to learn about health plans.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Washington residents who tried to buy health insurance through the health exchange weren’t the only ones to experience technical difficulties.

About 20,000 Medicaid recipients encountered similar problems when they went to the exchange in November, preventing them from renewing their coverage. That’s roughly a third of Medicaid patients for that month.

ACA Coverage Starts Tomorrow: Are Insurance Companies Ready?

Dec 31, 2013
Flickr Photo/Curtis Cronn

Steve Scher checks in with Premera Blue Cross spokesman Eric Earling on how Washington state insurance companies have prepared for the full rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

The Puget Sound VA has new initiatives focusing on accessibility and quailty of care for veterans.
Flickr Photo/cursedthing (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with Richard Onizuka, CEO of Washington Health Benefit Exchange, ahead of the deadline to sign up for health insurance to receive coverage starting in the new year.

Doctor
Flickr Photo/Alex Proimos (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman sits down with KUOW reporter Ruby de Luna to talk about the Monday health exchange deadline for coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

From Plum Bistro's Facebook page.

Washington small businesses got some good news Tuesday.

Senator Patty Murray and the Treasury Department announced they found a solution that will let small businesses get tax credits when buying health plans for their employees. Washington was one of few states that was going to miss out on the federal subsidies until now.

Marcie Sillman talks with Michael Marchand, Washington Health Benefit Exchange spokesperson, about the past weeks outage on the state's online exchange.

Flickr Photo/kindagetmego

Marcie Sillman talks with Mike Kreidler, Washington State Insurance Commissioner, about his decision to reject President Obama's proposal to allow consumers to retain, for an extra year, health insurance policies that aren't up to the standards of the Affordable Care Act.

insurance.wa.gov/

Within hours of President Barack Obama’s announcement that people could keep their old insurance plans – at least for another year – Washington state’s insurance commissioner said he wouldn’t abide.

healthplanfinder.org

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced changes to his health care law that would give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.

“Everyone understands that I’m not happy that the rollout has been wrought with a whole range of problems I have been deeply concerned about,” Obama said.

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

The woman whose smiling face adorned the HealthCare.gov website in the first days after its launch has stepped forward to tearfully address those who she says cyberbullied her as they took potshots at the Obama administration's troubled online health exchange.

Ross Reynolds talk with Amnon Shoenfeld, the director of King County’s Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division, about the new health care regulations for insurance companies.

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