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health care

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

Open enrollment for health insurance started last Saturday. It’s the time for people to buy a health plan, or to renew what they already have. And for the first time this year, the state’s health exchange is offering health plans for small businesses. 

Marcie Sillman interviews KUOW health reporter Ruby de Luna about some of the changes the Washington state Health Exchange has made. Last year more than a million Washington state residents signed up for health insurance through the Washington Health Plan Finder website.  Saturday is the first day of open enrollment. People need to sign up or renew their health care plans by February 15, 2015. 

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

Ross Reynolds has a wide-ranging discussion of end-of-life issues with Atul Gawande, author of “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End."  

Gawande discusses  several issues such as how medical science views death as a failure, and does not always examine how medical treatments affect people at the end; innovations in assisted living and hospice to not only improve the quality of life, but also allow people to live longer; and how health care professionals are trying to become better at end of life care.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

If today is a typical day in the United States, about 200 hospital patients will die with an infection they picked up while they were in the hospital.

Only one patient in the United States has ever died of Ebola, and many deadly diseases spread much more easily than Ebola.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to Heather Stephen-Selby about nurses' preparedness for Ebola in Washington state. Stephen-Selby is the assistant executive director of practice, education and research for the Washington State Nurses Association. 

Also Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington's chief epidemiologist, explains how the state is preparing and what the state still needs to do.

Flickr Photo/Penn State (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Group Health family practitioner Dr. Matt Handley about a new report that looks at unnecessary medical testing in Washington state.

Exactly one year ago, the Obamacare insurance exchanges stumbled into existence. Consumers struggled to sign up for its online marketplace — and the Obama administration was pummeled. Eventually, HealthCare.gov's problems were mostly fixed, and two weeks ago, the administration announced 7.3 million people have bought insurance through it so far this year.

So, was the health exchanges' first year a success — or something less?

Ask President Obama, and he says you measure the Affordable Care Act's success this way:

The heavyset man with a bandage on his throat is having trouble repeating a phrase. "No ifs ..." he says to the medical students and doctors around his bed at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Can I hear you say no ifs, ands or buts?" says Dr. Allan Ropper, the Harvard neurologist in charge. The patient tries again. "No ifs, buts, ands or," he says.

Kevin Wiehrs is a nurse in Savannah, Ga. But instead of giving patients shots or taking blood pressure readings, his job is mostly talking with patients like Susan Johnson.

Johnson, 63, is a retired restaurant cook who receives Medicare and Medicaid. She has diabetes, and has already met with her doctor. Afterward, Wiehrs spends another half-hour with Johnson, talking through her medication, exercise and diet.

Mobile Medical
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

About twice a month, King County’s Mobile Medical van comes to Renton. It opens at 4:30, but it’s often slow until closer to 6:30, when the church across the street begins serving hot meals for homeless people.

The inside of this RV has been retrofitted so there’s an exam room, a nurse’s station and a waiting area.  A generator gives off a droning buzz as it powers this efficient little clinic.

Dow Constantine in the KUOW studios.
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano

Marcie Sillman talks to King County Executive Dow Constantine  about the new 2015-2016 budget.

Three times in one week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo returned to the emergency room of the Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Southern California, seeking relief from intense back pain. Each time, Granillo waited a little while and then left the ER without ever being seen by a doctor.

"I was in so much pain, I wanted to be taken care of 'now,' " says Granillo. "I didn't want to sit and wait."

Catholic and other religious hospitals and universities have been arguing in federal court for much of the past two years that they shouldn't have to offer or facilitate birth control as part of their employee health plans because it violates their religious beliefs.

But what happens when the insurance company is itself Catholic? It turns out that Catholic health plans have for years been arranging for outside firms to provide contraceptive coverage to their enrollees.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

One of the public health clinics slated for closure got a reprieve today as King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a partnership that would keep the White Center Public Health Clenter at Greenbridge open through the 2016 fiscal year.

Washington State University's Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan Friday to establish a medical school in Spokane.

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.

UW And WSU Face Off In The 'Apple Cup' Of Medical Schools

Sep 12, 2014

Marcie Sillman talks with Holly Greenwood, executive director of Washington's Rural Healthcare Collaborative, about what a medical school based in Spokane could do for the rural health care shortage.

Marcie Sillman talks with bioethicist Arthur Caplan about the implications of involving people in a research study without their consent. Caplan directs the bioethics division at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Marcie Sillman talks with freelance journalist Lisa Stiffler about infection rates and patient safety in Washington hospitals.

O.S.T. and L.H. – their initials in court documents – are minors diagnosed with autism. Their families sued Regence, the health insurance company, for not covering all therapies related to their condition.

Expanded coverage for young adults under the Affordable Care Act substantially raised inpatient hospital visits related to mental health, finds a study conducted by researchers at Indiana and Purdue universities.

That looks like good news: Better access to care for a population with higher-than-average levels of mental illness that too often endangers them and people nearby.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is reminding employers they may not discriminate against same-sex spouses when it comes to health coverage.

Danni Askini, the executive director of the Gender Justice League.
Courtesy of Danielle Askini

Marcie Sillman speaks with Danielle Askini, advocacy director for the Gender Justice League, about their efforts to remove health care exclusions affecting transgender people from Washington state employee plans.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

You may have heard of financial literacy or media literacy. But what about health literacy: Are you able to get and understand basic health information?

Answering the question of whether diet soda helps or hinders dieters' efforts to lose weight has been the focus of much research. And buzz.

Unfortunately, the answer is still murky.

More than 700,000 Texans have signed up for a health plan through the online insurance marketplace. For that group, the Affordable Care Act appears to be working.

But an even larger number of Texans — one million or more — still have no access to affordable coverage because Texas officials opted out of a federal plan to expand Medicaid for the poorest adults.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Carrie Feibel of KUHF explains.

Why Is It So Hard To Find The Price Of A Medical Procedure?

May 22, 2014
Flickr Photo/401(K) 2013

Steve Scher talks with Sean Sullivan, a professor at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, about the importance of transparency for health care costs and what individuals can do to find out the expense of their health services.

Employers May Start Paying You To Buy Health Insurance

May 13, 2014

What if employers started giving workers a chunk of cash to buy health insurance on their own instead of offering them a chance to buy into the company plan? Are workers ready to manage their own health insurance like they do a 401(k)?

The idea that employers might drop their health plans and replace them with a "defined contribution" for employees has been around for years. It's one way for employers to control their expenses in the face of the relentlessly rising costs of health care.

Photo Courtesy Jenni Clark

Not all health plans are the same, as Washington consumers have learned the hard way.

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis C for decades. He's known about it for 20 years. And now he's reaching the end of the road.

"The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic," the 65-year-old Arizona man says.

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