Medicaid

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

After a rocky start, Washington’s health benefits exchange is taking a victory lap. Officials say the exchange got the late surge in enrollments it was counting on, pushing up its final numbers.

The first open enrollment period of Obamacare ended in March, and now that the exchange has processed most of the stragglers, it has released new numbers: 164,062 people enrolled in private plans, with another 423,205 enrolling in Medicaid through March 31. Factor in those now required to use the exchange’s website to re-up their Medicaid, and the number exceeds a cool million.

Washington state has been overpaying for health care under the Medicaid program, according to state auditors.

The audit found the state spent about $17 million more than it should have on free health care for the poor in 2010. The amount is a tiny, tiny part of the billion-dollar Medicaid budget. But the auditor found the overpayments could feed a vicious cycle, increasing each year.

UMHealthSystem / Flickr

Washington’s Medicaid program saved more than $33 million last year, and a new report gives much of the credit to a big push to reduce emergency room visits.

ERs are a great place to treat real emergencies, but a very expensive place to do run-of-the-mill medical care. So the Health Care Authority, the agency that runs Medicaid, partnered with the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington State Medical Association and others to adopt seven best practices aimed at ensuring ERs are used for their intended purpose.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Glitches that kept tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients from re-enrolling this fall continued to trip people up in December, though the state agency that runs Medicaid said the problems are being fixed.

On the day President Barack Obama acknowledged major flaws in the rollout of health insurance marketplaces, Washington’s exchange reported strong enrollment. Washington Healthplanfinder announced some 35,000 people have enrolled in a plan through the website, and another 56,000 are working their way through the process.

Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the exchange, said Washington’s site was designed to get the basics right.

Lynn Kelley Author / Flickr

You might imagine everyone without health insurance will gladly sign up for free or subsidized coverage once it’s available this fall, under the Affordable Care Act.

However, it hasn't worked out that way for children. A high-profile effort to cover all the uninsured kids in Washington has stalled.

If you’ve been to an emergency room in Washington in recent months, you're probably in a new database.

The goal is to treat more injuries and illnesses outside the emergency department, in a simpler setting, which should save money, curb drug abuse and also benefit patients.

Washington's hospitals and doctors have agreed to enter some basic information about their emergency patients into a computer system. Once you hit your fifth emergency visit per year, the hospital will assign a case manager to look at your records.

"zoomar" / flickr.com

The state of Washington is limiting Medicaid recipients to three non-emergency Emergency Room visits per year, beginning October 1st.

Visits over the limit won't be covered by Medicaid, and hospitals will be allowed to bill patients for those services.

Flickr

If you’ve ever been to a hospital or doctor who can’t seem to get your medical records, be thankful for a new web-service launching this month. It allows doctors, hospitals and health insurers to quickly send medical records to each other, even if they're not in the same network.

Todd Gilmer and Kronick / Health Affairs (journal)

When it comes to caring for its poorest and sickest people, Washington state appears to be doing better than the rest of the country. At least, that’s the view from a new study that looks at Medicaid spending.

Public spending on health-care is a hot political topic these days, as states and the federal government try to balance their budgets. Researchers were wondering: How do the 50 states compare in their spending on Medicaid, which covers low-income people? Do some states spend more because they pay doctors higher fees?

Photo courtesy of HealthPoint

Health clinics that cater to low-income people have been expanding.