Category Archives: health insurance

ACA Health Insurance Open Enrollment Begins November 1st

In Washington State, we have a healthcare exchange at www.wahealthplanfinder.org. If this is your first time obtaining health insurance through the WA State exchange, a little preparation and planning will help you through the process.  Gather the documents and information you will need to complete your online application.

Download a checklist of information you will need to apply.

Set aside time to work on your application.  Early morning or late evenings may be less busy and allow faster progress through the application program. Note that the website is down overnight from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am daily.  As you work through the application, save your work.  If you need, you can return to the application to complete it at a later time. 

Quick Tips for Completing the Application.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Not Taxable Income. Do NOT over-report your income by including time loss compensation in your in application.  You may qualify for insurance for you and your family at a much lower cost while you are receiving time loss compensation benefits.

Savings are based on your expected household income for the year you want coverage, not last year’s income. The exchange uses an income number called modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) to determine eligibility for savings. It’s not a line on your tax return.

See what’s included in MAGI and how to estimate it.

You can get free, in-person help from a navigator or broker. They can help you fill out the application and enroll in coverage. Search for a navigator or broker by your zip code or language preference. You can also call the Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633 for help with the application process.

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How Safe Is Healthcare for Workers?

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

The issue raised by Mr. Rehm was investigated thoroughly in a book given to us by a client, an injured nurse who contributed her story to the effort under a pseudonym: Back Injury Among Healthcare Workers, published by Lewis Publishers. It is a great resource, providing case-studies, statistics and suggestions for improvements for workers in the healthcare field.

The article that today’s blog post is based upon is an in-depth look at how one state’s OSHA office interacts with a sector of the healthcare community: hospitals. Like Iowa, but unlike Nebraska, Oregon is one of 27 states or U.S. territories that has an OSHA office at the state level

The “Lund Report: Unlocking Oregon’s Healthcare System” article talks extensively about nuances within ways that OSHA offices, whether state or federal, can measure the safety of healthcare providers like hospitals and nursing homes. 

As evidenced in previous blog posts about senior-care workers and lifting injuries, I have continuing concerns for the safety of healthcare workers. 

According to the in-depth article, “A Lund Report review suggests that in Oregon, regulators are de-emphasizing attention to hospital employee safety, despite national data showing that healthcare workers are injured in the U.S. each year at rates similar to farmers and hunters. Most Oregon hospitals have not been inspected by the state Occupational Safety and Health Division in years. And when on-the-job hazards are detected, Oregon’s OSHA office levies the lowest average penalties in the country.”

Should workers get lost as the patients are the focus of these healthcare institutions? Should regulation and inspections or fines by such groups as OSHA be the driving force toward workplace safety for healthcare employees?

It seems to me that healthcare administrators’ emphasis on profit is more important than proper concern for their employees – the nation’s caregivers. And if you or your family member is the healthcare worker who gets hurt on the job, this lack of focus on the worker is more than just a philosophical argument.

Opioid Use in Worker’s Compensation

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Today’s post comes from guest author Tom Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

Many of my back-injured clients use pain relief medication in the opioid family: Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycodone (Oxycontin or Percocet), Fentanyl (Duragesic or Fentora), Methadone, and Codeine.  Many variations of opioids exist, each with a different level of potency. The worker’s compensation industry has labeled excessive opioid use “an epidemic, particularly targeting worker’s compensation.” The Center for Disease Control has noted the problem of opioid abuse as a national danger.

The CDC latest statistics show close to 40,000 drug overdose deaths each year in the United States, more than half of which involve prescription drugs. Deaths in which opioids are used now exceed deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. The drug overdose deaths are more numerous that motor vehicle crash deaths and the numbers have gone up every year since the turn of the century. One contributing factor is that many work-related injuries are back injuries, for which doctors increasingly prescribe opioids for both short and long term to address pain. CDC medical epidemiologist Dr. Leonard Paulozzi recently noted worker’s compensation medical providers may be exceeding guidelines from the American College of Occupational Environmental Medicine regarding the use of opioids and how long they should be used. Dr. Paulozzi noted 42% of workers with back injuries had opioid prescriptions in the first year after the injury, most of them after their first medical visit, but 16% of those workers were still receiving opioids a year after the injury. He noted while opioids might be good for use as acute medication, for example within six weeks after the injury, continuation of opioids is not indicated beyond that short term use.

Prescription medication has become a bigger portion of medical expense in all States, especially if the worker becomes dependent or addicted to the opioid medication to control pain.  Opioids are generally prescribed for several reasons in worker’s compensation claims, including catastrophic injury with chronic pain and injury involving surgical treatment necessitating pain control and general pain control.