Monthly Archives: February 2014

Kitsap health exchange enrollment slowed in January

Kitsap County enrollment private plans offered through Washington Health Benefit Exchange tapered in January, after a surge in December.

A total of 3,146 Kitsap residents had signed up for private insurance through the exchange at the end of January. Enrollment in expanded Medicaid programs remained high, with 14,534 qualifying for the first time or renewing enrollment.

The jump in private plan enrollment in December came before the application deadline for insurance that activated Jan. 1. The next big deadline is March 31, when open enrollment for private plans closes. Medicaid enrollment continues year-round.

The exchange announced this week that more than 100,000 Washington residents had enrolled in private plans through the Healthplanfinder website. Another 300,000 Washington residents have enrolled in Medicaid through the exchange for the first time.

Exchange staff will be in Kitsap this weekend to promote Healthplanfinder at the Wild West Shootout roller derby event.

The full enrollment report from January is embedded below: Continue reading

Your next closest 24-hour pharmacy

An upcoming change in hours at the Walgreens in Silverdale will result in the loss of the only 24-hour pharmacy west of Puget Sound.

This is a concern for some urgent care and emergency departments, which often refer patients to the Silverdale Walgreens after hours.

Walgreens is making the change because of low demand for late-night pharmaceutical services. But though their numbers may be small, the customers who need those services tend to really need them.

Dr. Bill Morris at Harrison Medical Center offered this as a typical scenario:

Someone arrives at Harrison late in the evening after suffering a broken ankle in a fall. They’re treated and discharged at 10 p.m. with a prescription for pain killers.

Typically, the patient’s next stop would be the Silverdale Walgreens to get the meds they’d need to not suffer through the night. That option will be gone March 8.

The next closest 24-hour pharmacies, as best as I can tell, are in Lakewood and Ballard (see map) a long haul for someone in pain. Morris said gone are the days when a physician could send a patient home with an extra “pill in their pocket” to tide them over until morning.

Harrison is working on a way of providing prescriptions to their patients after hours. They’ll let us know when a plan is in place.


Franciscan CEO to retire in 2015

blog.Joe WilczekFranciscan Health System CEO Joe Wilczek announced plans Wednesday to retire in January 2015. Wilczek has led the Tacoma-based Catholic hospital group for the past 16 years.

Bremerton’s Harrison Medical Center affiliated with Franciscan and parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, last year.

Franciscan expanded from three to nine hospitals under Wilczek’s watch and developed a clinic network with more than 100 sites. Franciscan employs more than 12,000 people and generates annual net revenue of $1.8 billion, according to the release.

Catholic Health Initiatives will conduct a search for a replacement this year, with input from its affiliate boards, including Harrison’s. CHI expects to name a replacement by the end of 2014.

Courtesy photo

Bremerton, Port Orchard join request for pot revenue

blog.potThe heavily-taxed legal marijuana industry could generate close to $2 billion for the state over the next four years.

Local governments won’t see a dime of pot revenue directly, beyond what they collect from sales and business tax. That’s something many local leaders want to see changed.

Mayor Patty Lent of Bremerton and Mayor Tim Matthes of Port Orchard signed a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee and leaders in the Legislature asking for some revenue to be directed toward local enforcement. Nearly 100 Washington mayors signed the request, compiled by the Association of Washington Cities.

The mayors argue the burden of enforcing the new marijuana law will be placed on local governments:

“The majority of marijuana sales and use will occur in our jurisdictions. This makes us responsible for overseeing permitting, code enforcement, ensuring money and drugs  stay out of criminal hands, preventing distribution to minors, and addressing drugged driving and other adverse public health consequences.

If the state is relying on local cities to enforce new marijuana laws, it needs to provide some of the new marijuana tax revenues to pay for it – this is a matter of common sense and fairness. It is estimated legalizing marijuana will give the state significant new annual tax revenue. We’re asking for a portion of those revenues.

Communities are already feeling the impacts of legalized marijuana, even before retail operations open this summer which will dramatically expand access. The state has only 69 liquor enforcement officers and they will only focus on licensing. All other oversight and enforcement falls to local governments.”

You can read the full letter below: Continue reading

High spirits: Bainbridge distills “World’s Best Vodka”

Bainbridge Island is now home to the “World’s Best Vodka.”

Bainbridge Organic Distiller’s Legacy Vodka earned that distinction at the World Vodka Awards in London Thursday. The vodka beat out more than 1,000 brands from 25 countries, according to a news release.

The selection was made by an independent tasting panel. This is how judges described Bainbridge’s entry:

This is an excellent spirit that’s well balanced and full of individual character, great potential for cocktails. It has a powerful but soft nose with berry fruits and grain coming through. Rich, creamy, marshmallow flavours develop nicely on the palate.

The Legacy Vodka also won the award for best packaging design.

Bainbridge Organic Distillers opened in 2009. The company produces vodka, Doug fir gin and whiskey in small batches.

The World Vodka Awards are part of the World Drinks Awards,

Emeritus Senior Living to be purchased by Brookdale

Emeritus Corp., which operates senior living communities in Poulsbo and Gig Harbor, has agreed to a purchase by Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living.

The acquisition was announced in a news release Thursday. The transaction value totals $2.8 billion, including $1.4 billion in Emeritus’ mortgage debt.

According to the release, the acquisition will create a nationwide senior living network with more than 1,100 facilities in 46 states. The merger of the two companies will likely take place in late 2014.

We’ll check on what the implications of the purchase for local Emeritus clients could be. The Tacoma News Tribune has more details on the acquisition.

Kitsap ahead of curve in Medicaid expansion enrollment

With 6,122 residents enrolled in expanded Medicaid programs, Kitsap County is well ahead of its enrollment goal. The county has already exceeded its target number by 160 percent, according to a release from the state Health Care Authority.

Kitsap has enrolled a total of 16,406 residents in Medicaid since the start of the Affordable Care Act rollout in Oct. 1. That figure includes new and renewing enrollees.

Though open enrollment for private health plans offered through the state exchange ends March 31, applications for Medicaid are accepted all year.

The map below compares progress in Medicaid enrollment among Washington counties:

Health exchange using Kitsap roller derby to reach younger crowd

Roller derby competitors take their share of lumps and bruises. The rowdy sport also attracts a young crowd.

Those elements made roller derby a natural fit for promoting the state Healthplanfinder website, said spokeswoman Bethany Frey.

The health insurance exchange is rolling out a partnership this month with Kitsap’s Slaughter County Roller Vixens, along with other roller derby and hockey leagues across the state. It’s part of an effort to reach the coveted “young invincibles.”

“It fit in really well with the demographic we’re trying to reach,” Frey said.

The exchange will have a booth and promotional activities at Roller Vixens events through the end of March, including the popular Wild West Showdown.

The deadline for signing up for qualified private plans through the exchange is March 31.

Meegan Reid photo

Bainbridge Island’s Avalara raises $30 million

Avalara, a Winslow tech firm providing automated sales tax compliance tools, announced a $30 million fundraising round last week.

The investments will help the company build its technology and business Avalara founder and CEO Scott McFarlane said in a news release.

“Avalara is proud of its growth and excited about completing this latest financing round,” he said in the release.

Avalara has raised more than $100 million since opening in 2004.