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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau recipients get health care help from volunteers

Mary Englehart lost her health insurance in 2009, shortly after getting an MRI to monitor a cyst on her brain. ”I had bad headaches and I had a seizure,” she said, noting when she still had medical coverage she saw a neurologist who prescribed migraine medication and biannual MRIs to monitor any growth of the cyst.

Sticker shock ahead for some health plan buyers

CHICAGO – As a key enrollment deadline hits today, many people without health insurance have been sizing up policies on the new government health care marketplace and making what seems like a logical choice: They’re picking the cheapest one. Increasingly, experts in health insurance are becoming concerned that many of these first-time buyers will be in for a shock when they get medical care next year and discover they’re on the hook for most of the initial cost.

Supreme Court will take up new health law dispute

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has agreed to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama’s health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

Providence facilities, doctors excluded by two large insurers in Washington exchange

Competition to control the cost of new individual health policies has led two of Washington’s biggest insurance companies to exclude Eastern Washington’s largest hospital, and many of its physicians, from their networks of preferred providers. Hit by the exclusions are Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Providence Holy Family Hospital and about 500 Spokane-area physicians that Providence has added to its network over the past few years.

Washington’s health site an early success in a nation of glitches

Washington’s new online health insurance marketplace, one of the nation’s most successful, has provided early answers to some of the biggest questions in federal health care reform. For example: Do people want government-subsidized coverage? Spartan coverage or more comprehensive coverage? Will younger people sign up, making the insurance pool healthier so rates won’t shoot through the roof? Friday, the state’s Health Benefit Exchange released a 12-page statistical report containing demographic details about those who have enrolled so far. Washington’s state-run exchange has signed up more people for health insurance than any state other than New York and California.

Report details health reform’s reception in Washington

Washington’s new online health insurance marketplace, one of the nation’s most successful, has provided early answers to some of the biggest questions in federal health care reform. For example: Do people want government-subsidized coverage? Spartan coverage, or more comprehensive coverage? Will younger people sign up, making the insurance pool healthier so rates won’t shoot through the roof? Friday, the state’s Health Benefit Exchange released a 12-page statistical report, containing demographic details about those who have enrolled so far.

Obama’s health care proposal refused by Washington insurance commissioner

Washington’s top insurance official is rejecting President Barack Obama’s proposal that would allow insurance companies to extend expiring plans another year. “I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Thursday. “We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.”

Federal health care enrollments fall far below targets in October

WASHINGTON – Newly released figures show enrollments for coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care plan fell far below official projections, underscoring the damage inflicted by the botched rollout and further endangering the administration’s support among restive Democrats on Capitol Hill. Just 106,185 Americans successfully enrolled in health coverage in October. The administration had hoped to get half a million people signed up in the Affordable Care Act’s first month.

Washington state making insurance exchange work

KENT, Wash. – Mindy Mansfield had health insurance when she worked at a factory that made air flow vents in Cle Elum, a small town on the eastern side of the Cascades. It covered the pills she took for her Type 2 diabetes and the ones she needed to ease her arthritis. But as she edged toward retirement age after nearly two decades as a machine operator, Mansfield was laid off. She moved in with her older sister in Kent, lost her medical coverage and jettisoned her arthritis medication because “it was just too expensive.”

Your Health Idaho insurance exchange has 338 enrollees in first month

BOISE – Just 338 people selected health coverage via Idaho’s insurance exchange during its glitch-plagued first month. Your Health Idaho’s enrollee figures were released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also released statistics for the nation’s other state exchanges.

Eye on Boise: Crapo, Risch say anti-discrimination laws best left to states

BOISE – When the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 last week in favor of legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, 10 Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill, but Idaho’s two senators both voted against it. “Number one, this is a state’s rights issue,” Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said. “Number two, this bill made insufficient provisions for employers who have First Amendment constitutional protections to exercise their religious beliefs.”

Health law clock ticks for sickest

PORTLAND – With federal and state online health care market-places experiencing glitches a month into implementation, concern is mounting for a vulnerable group of people who were supposed to be among the health law’s earliest beneficiaries. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country with pre-existing chronic conditions such as cancer, heart failure or kidney disease who are covered through high risk-insurance pools will see their coverage dissolve by year’s end.

CdA’s Heritage Health dental clinic moving to allow for more patients

The calls start early in the morning. People with toothaches, broken fillings and other problems jam the phone line hoping to get in that day to see a dentist. The small dental clinic in Coeur d’Alene serves low-income residents with little or no dental insurance. In a typical week, the nonprofit Heritage Health Dental Care – long known as Dirne Dental before a recent name change – turns away 300 patients seeking relief.

Eye on Boise: Tribes introduce treaty rights as factor in federal land debate

BOISE – A new wrinkle was added last week to the debate over Idaho lawmakers’ attempts to take over federal public land in the state. Representatives of Idaho Indian tribes pointed out that their treaty rights, which date back more than 200 years, guarantee them rights to hunt, fish, gather and pray at cultural sites on those federal lands. If the state were to take over the land, it’d violate the treaties.

Democrats criticize health care law rollout

WASHINGTON – Republicans have always been harsh critics of the Affordable Care Act. Now President Barack Obama’s signature health care law – commonly referred to as Obamacare – is taking heat from Democrats, too. More than three weeks after the problem-plagued rollout of the federal marketplace where consumers can sign up for health insurance, support for major provisions of the Affordable Care Act is weakening among some Democrats, who want to see someone fired over the botched debut.

Feds bring in troubleshooter for health insurance exchange

WASHINGTON – A familiar troubleshooter has been enlisted to try to fix the government’s health insurance website, administration officials said Tuesday, as political pressure piled up over the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Jeffrey Zients, a former acting director at the Office of Management and Budget, will assist the Department of Health and Human Services with “short-term advice, assessments and recommendations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Zients has served as the chief performance officer at OMB, a job aimed at improving government technology and efficiency.

Idaho lawmakers want health exchange contract canceled

BOISE – Two state lawmakers called Monday for cancellation of a nearly $375,000 no-bid contract awarded to one of the Your Health Idaho insurance exchange’s own board members. Republicans Sen. Jim Rice, of Caldwell, and Rep. Kelley Packer, of McCammon, both of whom sit on the board, said the exchange’s $180-per-hour contract with Frank Chan was overpriced, inappropriate and not in taxpayers’ best interests.

Health care exchange rollout frustrates Obama

WASHINGTON – Administration officials say about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges, the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projected by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period.