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health care

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.

Group Health members are reacting to the news of Kaiser Permanente acquiring the Seattle-based cooperative.

KUOW’s Ruby de Luna went to Edmonds where she found loyal, longtime members.

Update at 8:40 p.m. ET: Senate passed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act, with a 52-47 vote.

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Many Health Co-Ops Fold, Others Survive Startup Struggles

Nov 26, 2015

Thousands of Americans are again searching for health insurance after losing it for 2016. That's partly because some large, low-cost insurers — health cooperatives, set up under the Affordable Care Act — are folding in a dozen states.

It’s that time of year again: open enrollment period, when consumers choose a health plan for medical coverage.

Customers can browse for insurance at Washington Healthplanfinder, now in its third year.  

Ten million people still don't have health insurance two years after the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Some never bought a policy. But 20 percent went to the trouble of signing up on HealthCare.gov, or one of the state insurance exchanges, and even made payments. Then, those 2 million people let their insurance lapse.

NPR asked visitors to our Facebook page to tell us why.

Teal Victoria reads to her 3-year-old daughter Kai at their northeast Seattle home. Kai is on a ventilator and is cared for around the clock at home by her mother and her nurses.
Courtesy of seattlepi.com/Joshua Trujillo

Dozens of young Washington children who are dependent on ventilators could be living at home, but are stuck in expensive hospitals instead.

That's because Medicaid pay for nurses to care for them at home is so low -- about $10 an hour less than the market rate, Seattlepi.com reporter Levi Pulkkinen told KUOW's Jeannie Yandel on The Record.

Most women don't need to start getting an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer until they turn 45, according to the latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society.

Previously, the society recommended women start annual mammograms at 40 and continue every year for as long they remained in good health.

Flickr photo/sea turtle (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seattle may be one of the country’s most progressive cities, but it falls short on services for elderly LGBTQ people, according to University of Washington researchers.

So they advise creating a new program to train health and human service providers in caring for older adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is calling for disciplinary action after a Veterans Affairs investigation found that staffers in Seattle dumped mail about vets’ benefits in a yellow bucket and left it for months. 

If you're struck by a macaw, sucked into a jet engine or are having relationship problems with your in-laws, fear not: Your doctor now has a medical diagnosis code for that.

On Thursday, doctors, hospitals and health insurers must start using the ICD-10, a vast new set of alphanumeric codes for describing diseases and injuries in unprecedented detail.

Until recently, nurses at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Hospital had to maneuver through a maze of wheelchairs, beds, boxes and lights to find surgical supplies in the equipment closet for the operating rooms.

But as public hospitals like Harbor-UCLA try to cut costs and make patients happier, administrators have turned to an unlikely ally: Toyota.

Judy Naillon called her insurer several months ago to find out why she was being charged $35 every month for birth control pills. Her friends said they were getting their pills free under the federal health law.

Why wasn't she getting the same deal?

Online health insurance marketplaces are central parts of the Affordable Care Act. And HealthCare.gov, the federally run exchange, is where 27-year-old Kathryn Ryan, a restaurant server in Philadelphia, turned for health coverage, as soon as the law took effect.

"I was excited because if it weren't for Obamacare, I wouldn't be insured at all," she says. "I wouldn't have the ability to go to the doctor."

She can afford health insurance thanks to a $200 a month subsidy that brings her premium down to $60 a month.

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