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health care

It's the last day to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

And at Whitman-Walker Health, a community health center near downtown Washington, D.C., people have been streaming in looking for help choosing an insurance plan.

Katie Nicol is a senior manager who oversees the five so-called navigators whose sole job is to help people sign up for insurance coverage.

Community health leaders like Teresita Batayola of ICHS worry about the future of ACA.
Courtesy of ICHS

The deadline to sign up for health coverage is coming up at the end of the month. So far, more Americans have enrolled for health insurance this year than in previous years. At the same time, Congress has taken steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act.


As promised, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It's a concern for those who might be left without health insurance — and especially for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may have to pick up some of the slack.

Carrie Farmer, a health policy researcher at the Rand Corp., says 3 million vets who are enrolled in the VA usually get their health care elsewhere — from their employer, or maybe from Obamacare exchanges. If those options go away, she has no idea just how many of those 3 million veterans will move over to the VA.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler
Flickr photo/Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (CC BY-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/K52qFP

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler estimates one million people in Washington have received health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

He told KUOW's Ross Reynolds that without a plan in place from Republicans in Congress, those people could all lose insurance if Obamacare is repealed.


Amy Knickrehm of Seattle told reporters at a news conference Monday that her chronic pain and depression went undiagnosed for years because she had no health care.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

King County Executive Dow Constantine said he’ll fight to keep affordable health care for people currently covered under Obamacare. 

Constantine held a news conference with Public Health officials, local providers and patients three days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that begins the processes of rolling back the Affordable Care Act. 


Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president on Friday in Washington. He opened the week by calling out Rep.

Author Daniel Dawes.
Brigitte Martin Mack

The Affordable Care Act will be seven years old this March if President-elect Trump and the Republican Congress haven't repealed it by then. 

The Affordable Care Act brought the rate of uninsured Americans to a record low 9 percent in 2015. It's the major achievement of the controversial health care law and one the Obama administration likes to tout whenever it can.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell did just that in an interview with NPR on Tuesday.

The outcome of the repeal-and-replace Obamacare debate could affect more than you might think, depending on just how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal.

Beyond the Affordable Care Act's marquee achievements like guaranteeing health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on parents' plans until age 26, the roughly 2,000-page law created a host of other provisions that affect the health of nearly every American.

President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence were both on Capitol Hill Wednesday, making competing cases for and against Obama's signature health care law. Republicans have promised to make repeal of the Affordable Care Act their first order of business, once they control both Congress and the White House.

Americans continue to be divided along partisan lines over Obamacare, with an overwhelming percentage of Democrats favoring it and an equal share of Republicans having unfavorable views, according to a newly released Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

But when it comes to an actual gutting of Obamacare, there's doesn't appear to be a lot of support.

Will the Affordable Care Act become history under the Trump Administration? Republicans want to see it go or replaced with something else.

But some people, like Harriet Prudhomme, worry about what’s going to happen if it does.  

Brittany Johnson says the Freedom Foundation contacted her by mail to tell her she didn't have to be a member of SEIU. She said it was never clear how the right-wing organization got her information, and she wants her privacy.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

UPDATE 10/31/16, 2 p.m. 

On Friday the Washington state Attorney General’s Office said it filed a complaint in Thurston County Superior Court against the Freedom Foundation for campaign finance violations. The attorney general specifically said Freedom Foundation had failed to report its spending to oppose Initiative 1501.


The cost of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is expected to rise an average of 22 percent in 2017, according to information released by the Obama administration Monday afternoon.

Still, federal subsidies will also rise, meaning that few people are likely to have to pay the full cost after the rate increases to get insurance coverage.

Three doctors who have led a task force that evaluates preventive medical services say the group's recommendations shouldn't be tied by law to insurance coverage.

The former chairmen of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say the link between medical recommendations and insurance coverage leads to financial incentives that can corrupt the process and distort people's health care decisions.

Dozens of cancer patients in Seattle have been told they might have made contact with a healthcare worker infected with tuberculosis.

The worker was an employee at the University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and officials say the employee had contact with patients since February.


Insurance giant Aetna will stop selling health insurance through most of the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act in 2017 because the company said it is losing money in many of those markets.

On Monday, Aetna said it will sell individual insurance policies in only 242 counties in four states, down almost 70 percent from the 778 counties in 15 states where the company markets Obamacare plans this year.

Vermont Insurers Must Now Cover Vasectomies

Jun 19, 2016

Vermont has become one of several states working to make sure vasectomies are among the birth control options couples can afford.

Gov. Peter Shumlin last month signed into law a bill that adds vasectomies to the list of procedures that most health insurance coverage in Vermont must pay for.

Virginia Mason Medical Center is warning hundreds of patients to get tested for hepatitis-B, after a lapse in screening practices. Friday, the hospital announced it has notified 650 patients that they could have been exposed.

More Low-Income Kids Now Have Health Coverage

May 13, 2016

Bolstered by the federal health care law, the number of lower-income kids getting health coverage continues to rise.

Nearly a third of people without health insurance, about 10 million, live in families that received a federal earned income tax credit in 2014, according to a new study.

But the Internal Revenue Service doesn't tell those tax filers that their low and moderate incomes likely mean their households qualify for Medicaid or subsidies to buy coverage on the insurance exchanges.

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.

Idaho will remain among the 19 states resisting a key provision of Obamacare. The Idaho Legislature adjourned Friday without agreement on whether to explore an expansion of the Medicaid program.

For many people struggling with opioid use, a key to success in recovery is having support. Some are getting that support from an unlikely place: their health insurer.

Amanda Jean Andrade, who lives west of Boston in a halfway house for addiction recovery, has been drug- and alcohol-free since October. It's the longest she's been off such substances in a decade. She gives a lot of the credit for that to her case manager, Will — who works for her insurance company.

Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Rob Ketcherside (CC-BY-NC-ND) http://bit.ly/28QrplE

The company behind a medical device that has caused deadly bacterial infections in Seattle will voluntarily recall its scopes.

A global outbreak of infections linked to scopes built by Olympus America started as early 2012. In the U.S., more than 140 patients have been infected. At Seattle's Virginia Mason, at least 39 people were infected and 18 died.

Insurance policies that pay a lump sum if workers get cancer or another serious illness are being offered in growing numbers by employers. Companies say they want to help protect their workers against the financial pain of increasingly high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. But it's important to understand the limitations of these plans before buying.

Critical illness plans have been around for decades, but they've become more common lately as employers have shifted more health care costs onto their workers' shoulders.

The clock is ticking for you to get health insurance coverage for 2016: You've got until the end of January, state officials say.

And remember: Not being covered will be expensive. The penalty is $695 per adult or up to 2.5 percent of the person’s income, whichever is greater.

Solicit opinions about health insurance and you're almost guaranteed to find consensus: It's mystifying and irritating.

"It just seems like a lot of the buzzwords are intended to just complicate the whole thing and make it more expensive," says David Turgeon, 46, who's sitting in a Minneapolis mall eating lunch.

Enrollment season rolls on, and people shopping on HealthCare.gov and the other marketplaces have until Jan. 31 to decide on a plan.

Thursday's announcement by Kaiser Permanente that it plans to open its own medical school in Southern California in 2019 has attracted a lot of attention in the health care community.

The nonprofit, national provider of managed health care says it plans to train students in its own style of integrated diagnosis and treatment — focusing on research, the use of new technologies, and teaching doctors to work as part of a collaborative caregiving team.

washington state vaccination rates historic
KUOW Graphic/Kara McDermott

Washington is prepared for infectious outbreaks — or so it seems.

But a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health says the state can do better.

The report evaluated states on indicators such as flu vaccine rates and needle exchange programs. These indicators are related to prevention, detection and response to outbreaks.

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