The Company Behind Many Surprise Emergency Room Bills – NY Times

A good caution against getting overcharged at an emergency room visit. Though please don’t use the ER when you just need to see a physician.

Early last year, executives at a small hospital an hour north of Spokane, Wash., started using a company called EmCare to staff and run their emergency room. The hospital had been struggling to find doctors to work in its E.R., and turning to EmCare was something hundreds of other hospitals across the country had done.

That’s when the trouble began.

It appears that they are in use in Yakima, Sedro-Woolley and a few smaller cities in Eastern Washington.

The Company Behind Many Surprise ER Bills

First to lose Obamacare? The sickest county in the state – Seattle Times

The Seattle Times has a good article about the outcome of the Republican led move to sow uncertainty and doubt about Obamacare’s future. Gray’s Harbor joins the growing ranks of county’s without healthcare insurance for over 2200 of it’s residents. And if the Republicans in Washington get their way, there will be over 7000 more joining them soon. Oddly, out of all this, we may end up getting single payer, due to the Republicans apparently hell bent on committing political suicide by alienating their base of white rural lower to middle class voters. 47 counties nationwide now don’t have health insurance companies serving them, most of the counties voted Republican. Read it and weep. Because counties like ours, which are largely using Medicare and Medicaid to supply us with health coverage are next up on the Republicans chopping block.

Obamacare is starting to crack, starting in our state’s sickest spot, Grays Harbor County. But the plan isn’t to fix it. It’s to make it dramatically worse.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/first-to-lose-obamacare-the-sickest-county-in-the-state/

Payer snubs PTC’s Emflaza, signaling pricing trouble ahead of launch – FiercePharma

Washington State continues to battle for lower cost prescriptions. This is your government in action. It’s a good thing.

As Washington State’s HCA noted, PTC Therapeutics has not announced its new price. But the group published a report (PDF) stating that prednisone—at a cost of 5 cents per tablet and $55 per year—will be its preferred corticosteroid for DMD patients. It’s the “lower cost, equally effective” option, according to HCA.

Read the whole story here:

http://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/policy-report-washington-s-largest-healthcare-purchaser-snubs-ptc-s-emflaza

Washington State Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

From NARAL: The Washington State Legislature has unanimously passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will protect pregnant workers by requiring employers to provide reasonable work accommodations during pregnancy, such as temporary reassignment to light duty, additional bathroom breaks, and flexible scheduling for prenatal appointments. It would also prohibit employers from requiring pregnant workers to take paid or unpaid leave instead of providing reasonable job modifications, as well as protect pregnant workers from unequal treatment or retaliation for asking for an accommodation.

Washington State joins fifteen states, D.C., and four cities that have passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and protecting pregnant workers from retaliation when they request accommodations.

Congratulations to all the groups that spent huge amounts of time phone calling the legislators and going to meet them in Olympia.

 

Health leaders in Washington state seek improvements in existing health care law – Yakima Herald

Good original article by the Yakima Herald’s Molly Rosbach. Especially useful is it’s point on the use of Electronic Health Records, the bain of many physicians.

“Physicians don’t want to get rid of their EHRs; they understand the value, they just want to make sure it works in a way that’s natural to their work flow,” rather than a series of mindless boxes to check off, said Jennifer Hanscom, executive director of the state Medical Association. “It would be great if we could sit down with the folks at (Health and Human Services) in particular to kind of walk through that, and keeping the lens of a physician on all those regulations.”

A big area where documentation regulations appear at odds with the broader transition from fee-for-service to value-based purchasing is in prior authorization, Hanscom said: Why do insurers still require prior authorization, a extra step for patients and doctors, if doctors are already using the best evidence-based guidelines to make decisions about what services the patient needs?”

Read the whole story here:

http://www.yakimaherald.com/news/local/health-leaders-in-washington-state-seek-improvements-in-existing-health/article_70c50382-1767-11e7-ba24-87db1f07d72b.html

Improved access to health care must be assured for patients – Yakima Herald

Very good article on the value of community health centers under Medicaid. Discussing the issue surrounding Yakima, and also, here on the Peninsula.

Community health centers like Yakima Neighborhood Health Services have worked to solve the national challenge of access to care with innovative solutions at the local level. Health centers like ours save, on average, $2,371 (or 24 percent) in total spending per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers, according to a recent multistate study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

http://www.yakimaherald.com/opinion/editorials/guest_editorials/improved-access-to-health-care-must-be-assured-for-patients/article_186cd4ba-efd2-11e6-aa01-fbe7aaf1132f.html

Reminder of the Providence/Swedish Affiliation

Given the Seattle Times investigative story, I thought it was worth it to revisit what the 2012 ‘Affiliation’ agreement between Providence and Swedish was all about. Here’s a story  on it.