Medicaid | KUOW News and Information

Medicaid

Medicaid is the government health care program for the poor.

That's the shorthand explanation. But Medicaid is so much more than that — which is why it has become the focal point of the battle in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Updated at 8:10 pm ET

Congressional forecasters say a Senate bill that aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026.

That's only slightly fewer uninsured than a version passed by the House in May.

Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell (center) voices opposition to the bill at Virginia Mason on Friday.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

The Senate could vote as early as this week on the health care bill. And Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell spoke in Seattle recently about how she’s trying to oppose it.

Democratic Washington Senator Patty Murray at International Community Health Services in Seattle, June 16, 2017.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

Republican senators are expected to unveil their health care proposal Monday after working behind closed doors. And Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray has made it clear she doesn’t agree with it.

Bill Radke talks with AtWork! CEO Christina Brandt about how Medicaid cuts could affect people with disabilities. AtWork! is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs.

In recent days, several Republican lawmakers have faced crowds of constituents at town hall meetings around the country who are angry that they may be in danger of losing their health coverage.

To get a glimpse of where Medicaid may be headed after Donald Trump moves into the White House, it may be wise to look to Indiana.

That's where Seema Verma, Trump's pick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, comes from. And that's where she put her stamp on the state's health care program for the poor.

In 2014, Washington’s Medicaid program resumed covering dental care for adults. That was celebrated by advocates for the poor. But on Thursday, a panel of lawmakers will hear about ongoing challenges to that program.

Sarah Jackson had quit abusing drugs and had been sober for six months when she found out she had hepatitis C.

"That was weeks of not sleeping and just constant tears," she says. "I had already put a lot of that behind me and had been moving forward with my life and this was just a major setback."

To get rid of the infection, her doctor prescribed Harvoni, one of the new generation of highly effective hepatitis C drugs. But Jackson never started the treatment because her insurance, Indiana's Medicaid, refused to pay for it.

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.

A three-year-old Washington state law that allows whistleblowers to bring Medicaid fraud lawsuits is working. That’s according to a review by legislative auditors that urges lawmakers to renew the law before it expires next year.

Meeting a pediatrician in rural Georgia change Dr. Wes Henricksen's career path and led him to a clinic in Longview, Wash.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

As a new doctor, Wes Henricksen wanted to help poor communities. But doing that hasn’t been simple. 

Henricksen joined the Child and Adolescent Clinic in Longview, Washington, nine months ago, soon after he completed his residency in Seattle. He had planned to work in global health, but in medical school, he met a pediatrician in rural Georgia who changed his career decision.

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

For the past two years primary care doctors who saw Medicaid patients were given a pay increase. The extra money was an incentive for doctors to take in new patients who became eligible under Medicaid expansion. But starting January 1, 2015, that pay increase expires. Marcie Sillman talks to KUOW’s healthcare reporter Ruby de Luna about how this change might impact Medicaid patients.

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.

The Challenges Of Medicaid Expansion

Apr 17, 2014
Flickr Photo/kindagetmego

Steve Scher talks with Washington state Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad about how the state plans to accommodate more than 250,000 newly enrolled residents who qualified for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Flickr Photo/Micheal J (CC BY-NC-ND)

A year after hospitals began discouraging Medicaid patients from making unnecessary emergency room visits, the results are promising. A new state report shows the number of unnecessary visits to ERs in Washington fell by 10 percent last year.  

“A 10 percent reduction is almost unprecedented,” said Dr. Nathan Schlicher, an ER physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma.

Flickr Photo/Kaushik Narasimhan (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with Linda Grant, CEO of Evergreen Manor, about potential funding cuts to drug treatment programs for low-income patients in Washington state. Evergreen Manor is a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center in Everett.

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.

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.

Washington state has been trying to cut medical costs associated with Medicaid beneficiaries. This month it launched a new program called Health Homes. It’s part of the Affordable Care Act and is designed to help people who are not able to manage their chronic health conditions on their own.

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

A preliminary report from the Washington State Hospital Association shows that emergency room  visits by frequent users fell by 23 percent between June and October of last year.

  Medicaid expansion is one of the key decisions state lawmakers in Olympia face this session. Proponents say it would expand coverage to the uninsured, save the state money and boost the economy. Critics say it’s not clear how much the expansions will eventually cost state taxpayers. Ross Reynolds takes a closer look at Medicaid expansion with University of Washington public health-expert Aaron Katz.

Jay Inslee
Candidate's Facebook page

Democrat Jay Inslee made his first public appearance since he won the election. The Governor-Elect spoke Wednesday at a health care policy conference in SeaTac. He reiterated his commitment to change health care in Washington state through the Affordable Care Act.

Low-income parents will soon have a way to get treatment for their children with autism. Starting in January, Washington state will cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for kids with Medicaid coverage. The new benefit is part of a legal settlement between the state and a local advocacy group for children with autism. 

Images via TVW

Whoever is elected as governor this fall could change the course of Washington state's Medicaid program. When the US Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act in June, it determined that the law went too far when it required states to expand Medicaid. The ruling left it up to states to decide whether or not to open up the program to cover people without insurance.