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health care

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Health insurance experts say the 2018 rates in the Affordable Care Act didn't have to be so expensive. And if a bill in Congress is approved, they won't be.

Patients receive dental care during the Seattle/King County Clinic on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at Key Arena in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

This week insurance companies in Washington announced their 2018 rates for individual health plans. On average, prices are going up 36 percent.

Some experts say it didn't have to be this high.

Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET

A bipartisan coalition of 24 senators — 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats — has signed on to health care legislation to prop up the individual insurance market and keep premiums down. With the expected support of all Senate Democrats, it could have the votes to pass the chamber. But questions remain over when it might actually get a vote, as well as whether President Trump and House Republicans would bring the bill over the finish line.

Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray
U.S. Senate

Washington state’s U.S. senators were busy Tuesday.

Senator Patty Murray helped strike a bipartisan deal to avoid President Donald Trump's recently announced cuts to health insurance subsidies. 

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

Less than a week after President Trump said he is cutting off subsidies to health insurance companies, lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had a deal to restore the money and take other actions that could stabilize insurance markets for next year.

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that is intended to provide more options for people shopping for health insurance. The president invoked his power of the pen after repeated Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, have failed.

"The competition will be staggering," Trump said. "Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. And you will be, hopefully, negotiating, negotiating, negotiating. And you will get such low prices for such great care."

From left, Mark, Paxton and Cheryl Enstad pose for a portrait on Thursday, October 5, 2017, outside of the ACLU of Washington on 9th Ave., in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Paxton Enstad is 17 years old and loves to swim. He has many passions – art, baking, gingerbread sculpting – but he always loved to swim.

“When I was little I loved swimming. I would swim with my sister and my friends,” he said. “And then after puberty started I just completely stopped.”

FILE: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell smiles as he leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' health care bill Thursday, June 22, 2017.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Bill Radke talks to Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent covering health reform and federal health policy for Kaiser Health News, about how healthcare policy changes will affect patients. 

Health premiums for Washington state residents who buy into the state exchange can expect an average rise of 24 percent next year.

The proposal the Senate is considering that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would result in millions losing health insurance and a $133 billion reduction in the deficit by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Graham-Cassidy legislation.

If Senate Republicans vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week, it would affect the health care of pretty much every American.

Here's a recap of four key flash points in the health overhaul debate with links to NPR coverage over the past six months, and our chart laying out how the Graham-Cassidy bill under consideration in the Senate addresses those issues compared with the Affordable Care Act.

People who buy individual health insurance in Washington state can expect another round of rate hikes next year.

“I’d say double-digit [increases] are almost a certainty,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in an interview Thursday on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Republicans' complex health care calculations are coming down to simple math.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 50 of the chamber's 52 Republicans to vote for a bill that aims to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act and drastically reshape the Medicaid system. McConnell's office is planning to bring the bill up for a vote next week.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel thwacked the latest Republican health care proposal Tuesday night after one of the senators sponsoring the bill invoked Kimmel's name.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., touted Tuesday on Capitol Hill that his plan passes the "Jimmy Kimmel test."

There's a chance Republicans wouldn't be so close to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act if former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania hadn't dropped into the Capitol barbershop this spring.

"I was up on the Hill, I happened to just go by the barbershop to see if I could get a haircut, and Lindsey was in the chair," Santorum said. "And Lindsey asked me what I was doing, and I thought to myself, 'Well, let me just bounce it off Lindsey.' "

The Capitol Hill health care fight sure seemed dead. After Republican proposals to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, failed to pass a Republican-controlled Congress, lawmakers looked poised to move on to other topics, like a tax overhaul. But this week, proposals from both the left and the right are grabbing headlines.

Hospice care is for the dying. It helps patients manage pain so they can focus on spending their remaining time with loved ones. But in recent years, nearly 1 in 5 patients has been discharged from hospice before he or she dies, according to government reports.

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Bill Radke talks to Sen. Patty Murray about the hearings she has planned with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. They hope to come up with a bipartisan fix to the Affordable Care Act. 

In a moment of unexpected high drama, Republicans were stymied once again in their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act — and they have John McCain to thank for it.

In the early morning hours Friday, the senator showed why he earned the nickname "Maverick" over his long tenure.

Betting that thin is in — and might be the only way forward — Senate Republicans are eyeing a "skinny repeal" that would roll back an unpopular portion of the federal health law. But health policy analysts warn that the idea has been tried before, and with little success.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

In an emotional return to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. John McCain admonished the leaders of his party for how they managed the health care bill and called instead for "regular order."

Bill Radke talks to Monica Ewing, a benefits manager at Durney Insurance in Hoquiam, about how she councils her clients under the uncertainty of health care reform and why the insurance options in Grays Harbor County are so limited.  

The Senate voted Tuesday to begin debating a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. It remains uncertain as to what that replacement might look like. No formal legislation has been drafted. But senators moved to take the procedural first step, known as a "motion to proceed." The vote was 51-50, with Vice President Pence casting the tiebreaking vote.

Debate will now begin, most likely on a measure to fully repeal the law, also known as Obamacare.

The Senate Health Care Vote, Simplified

Jul 24, 2017

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to advance health care legislation to the Senate floor. That would open up debate on an Obamacare repeal and/or replacement plan.

The importance of the vote was highlighted by Sen. John McCain's decision to return to Washington to take part. He announced last week that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Thursday the King County Board of Health approved a new regulation for pregnancy resource centers, otherwise known as limited service pregnancy centers.

Under the rule, they need to post signage saying "This facility is not a health care facility."

Bill Radke speaks with Vox.com senior policy correspondent Sarah Kliff about single payer health care. Kliff explains the political and practical roadblocks to adopting single payer, as well as who the system would likely benefit or hurt. She also discusses the future of the current bills and what President Trump may truly want for health care in the country.

Tymia McCullough fidgets in front of a mirror in her hotel room as her mom, Susie Pitts, puts the final touches on her hair and nervously drills her on what she is going to say when she gets to Capitol Hill.

"And this is where you let them know that Medicaid is what?" Pitts asks.

"Health assurance," Tymia responds.

"Health insurance that does what?"

"It pays for the need to see your doctor," Tymia says.

Tymia is just 11 years old. She came to Washington last week to lobby Congress over health care. Her family saw it as a life-or-death fight.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

The defeat of the GOP Senate health care bill is a major blow to all Republicans involved.

President Trump, whose approval rating is lower than any recent president this early in his term, is now staring at an agenda imperiled. Despite his boasts, he has achieved little of significance through Congress. That failure is compounded by the fact that his party controls both chambers.

Bill Radke talks to Lauren Berliner, assistant professor of media and communication and culture studies at the University of Washington Bothell, and Nora Kenworthy, assistant professor in the school of nursing and health studies at the University of Washington Bothell, about their study on the rise of the use of crowdfunding sites as a way to pay for medical bills

There's a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about the tax cuts included in the Republican health plans, but unless you are a frequent user of tanning beds or have personal wealth that puts you in the top 1 percent, you might not feel much effect.

The House and Senate bills both change or eliminate more than a dozen taxes that were levied to help pay for the Affordable Care Act's insurance subsidies and to bolster Medicare and expand Medicaid. Republicans and other ACA critics have argued that the taxes are onerous for businesses and families.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

Americans broadly disapprove of the Senate GOP's health care bill, and they're unhappy with how Republicans are handling the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

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