Monthly Archives: January 2017

Two Organizations Helping Washington Communities with Health Care

More than 122,000 people moved to Washington state in 2016, which is the largest population increase since 2007.  Within the state, metropolitan counties saw higher increases than rural counties.  Yet these numbers prove that the population of Washington state continues to change.  Demographic changes often also indicate changing medical needs; after all, more health care in needed to serve more people. In western Washington, Neighborcare and Sea Mar Community Health Centers are continuing in their decades-long path to serve their local communities.Community Health Doctor


For over 40 years, the non-profit Neighborcare has been providing health care to low income and uninsured individuals and families, immigrants, seniors, and the homeless. Neighborcare has 4 core values: social justice, cultural sensitivity, community, and excellence. The organization’s ultimate goal is 100% access and zero health disparities.

Neighborcare clinics are concentrated in Seattle neighborhoods with the highest health disparities.  Currently, the organization has 28 medical, dental, and school-based clinics throughout Seattle and Vashon Island.

With its wide variety of services, Neighborcare strives to provide a health care home for their patients. The organization offers primary medical and dental care, pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, behavioral health services, and more.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers

Sea Mar began with a conversation between local Latino leaders about different ways to provide health care services to Spanish speaking residents. The first Sea Mar clinic opened in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood in 1978. Sea Mar has been a non-profit organization since its beginning in 1976.  Since its inception, the organization has continued to grow and change with the surrounding communities.  Unlike Neighborcare, Sea Mar Community Health Centers operates clinics outside of the greater Seattle region.

Sea Mar operates 33 medical clinics and 19 dental clinics in 11 Washington counties.

Sea Mar offers medical, dental, and behavioral health care.  Additionally, many locations also offer laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, health education, long term care, maternity care, classes, and more.

For decades, Sea Mar Community Health Centers and Neighborcare have been providing vital health services to local populations that need support.  While both organizations began in Seattle, Sea Mar has expanded to operate many clinics throughout western Washington.  Neighborcare still is concentrated in Seattle, and its twelve school based clinics provide needed medical support for vulnerable children and teenagers.  Both organizations are models for how to take care of patients and provide needed services, regardless of ability to pay.


Neighborcare. “About Us.” 2016. ( retrieved November 6, 2016.

Neighborcare. “Clinics & Staff.” 2016. ( retrieved November 6, 2016.

Neighborcare. “Medical Clinics.” 2016. ( retrieved November 6, 2016.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers. “History.” ( retrieved November 6, 2016.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers. “Services/Locations.” 2015. ( retrieved November 5, 2016.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers. “Welcome to Sea Mar Community Health Centers.” 2015. ( retrieved November 5, 2016.

State of Washington. “2016 Population Trends.” September 2016. ( retrieved November 6, 2016.Community Health Doctor

How to Understand 3 Types of Health Insurance Changes

Open enrollment, contract negotiations, and documentation changes impact a patient’s health insurance.  Sometimes the changes are big; sometimes they’re small.  Since healthcare organizations see hundreds or thousands of patients, it’s important that to understand and prepare for each type of change on a large scale.

Open Enrollment:  During open enrollment, patients can change their insurance plans or coverage levels through an employer sponsored plan or through a health insurance exchange.  Employers may also announce that they’ve changed the company that provides benefits to their employees.  In this scenario, the patient is aware of the voluntary or involuntary change.

Contract Negotiations: Annually, many healthcare organizations may renegotiate contracts with insurance companies for the following year. These discussions frequently relate to changes in reimbursement rates and patient coverage levels. Proactive patients will often be aware of the upcoming changes, but other insurance plan members may not be aware of the changes.  When organizations and insurance companies terminate their contracts, it’s important to identify all affected patients as soon as possible.  Although this is rare, it may mean that the patient needs to transfer their care elsewhere in order for the insurance company to pay for it.

Minor Documentation Changes: Although the biggest changes happen early in the year, insurance companies regularly make changes.  These minor changes often impact a slim percentage of patients in a particular situation.  With these month-to-month changes, the insurance companies are typically requesting more or different documentation from healthcare offices before the company will authorize a particular aspect of the patient’s care.

Responding to these Insurance Changes

Front line staff can capture most insurance updates by asking the patient about their insurance information.  Anyone who schedules or checks in patients should routinely confirm the patient’s insurance coverage with every visit.  If possible, staff should also copy the insurance card to store in the electronic medical record or in the patient’s file. Generally, staff should copy a patient’s insurance card at least once per year or more frequently if it changes.  A few organizations copy the insurance card at every visit.  Since patients won’t be aware of contractual or documentation changes, offices should have a resource to track monthly and annual insurance changes. This system should be easy for front line staff to use in real time. Also, it should be detailed enough for billing or pre-authorization staff to use as a resource. Larger organizations may choose to go with a searchable web resource while smaller offices may choose to create a simple list.  Organizations will tailor the resource to fit their institutional needs.

Community Highlight: Enumclaw

Enumclaw, WA

Located in Western Washington, Enumclaw is 25 miles north Mount Rainier National Park and 41 miles northwest of Crystal Mountain. Given this location, hiking, camping, and more are easily accessible for Enumclaw residents.  Enumclaw 40 miles southeast of Seattle and 309 miles southwest of Spokane. It’s also 171 miles north of Portland.


Although the first settlers in the region arrived in the 1850s, Enumclaw was founded in 1879 by Frank and Mary Stevenson.  Early residents called it Stevensonville, until the couple declined the name. The city was officially incorporated in January 1913.

In 2010, the U.S. Census listed the population of Enumclaw as 10,669.  2015 population estimates list  the current population as 11,609.

The Enumclaw Public School District has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. Green River Community College also has a campus in Enumclaw.

In the 1880s and 1890s, the city relied on hops production for a sizable chunk of the economy.  When the crop failed in the 1890s, residents moved toward dairy farming which continues to make up a significant part the economy.  The most common industries in Enumclaw’s current economy include construction, healthcare, education, and manufacturing.

Enumclaw has a mild climate.  Average summer temperatures range from the mid-40s to the high 70s.  Average winter temperatures range from the low 30s to the mid-40s.  Monthly precipitation peaks around November with an average of 8 inches.  On the other hand, mid-July only averages about 1.5 inches of precipitation.

Enumclaw is nestled between Crystal Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park, Mud Mountain Dam, and Nolte State Park.  With all of these outdoor locations, Enumclaw residents have easy access to a variety of outdoor activities.  Hiking, biking, and more are offered at the dam and the parks.  During the winter, Crystal Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snowshoeing.

Enumclaw hosts two annual events in July.  The King County Fair has a variety of attractions including competitions, rides, and booths.  The Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games  includes music, games, arts, and a dog show.

Enumclaw’s proximity to parks–and its mild climate–mean that residents have unending opportunities for outdoor adventure.  Those who are looking for a unique experience can test out the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland games, which draws many visitors to the area.   Since it’s only a few hours from Seattle, Spokane, and Portland, Enumclaw offers the chance to live outside of the city without being too far away.  Make the time to explore and see what captures your imagination first.

Resources “Enumclaw, Washington.” ( retrieved October 12, 2016.

City of Enumclaw. “King County Fair 2016.” ( retrieved October 13, 2016.

City of Enumclaw. “Visitor Information.” ( retrieved October 12, 2016.

Enumclaw School District. “Headlines.” ( retrieved October 12, 2016.

Seattle Scottish Highland Games Association. “70th Annual Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering.” ( retrieved October 13, 2016.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. “Mud Mountain Dam.” ( retrieved October 13, 2016.

Washington State Parks. “Nolte State Park.” ( retrieved October 13, 2016.
Wikipedia. “Enumclaw, Washington.” September 26, 2016. (,_Washington) retrieved October 12, 2016.

A Quick Guide to Group Health

See all Group Health Openings here!

For the over 60 years, Group Health Cooperative has played an important role in providing healthcare to northwest residents.  Founded in 1945 with the radical idea that healthcare should keep people healthy, the organization has led the way in the ever-changing world of healthcare and insurance.  Although skeptics initially questioned the organization’s unique mission, today’s Group Health continues to accomplish its original goal of providing high-quality, affordable healthcare.

Based in Seattle, Group Health provides care in 20 counties in Washington state and 2 counties in Idaho. Throughout these 22 counties, there are Group Health contracted medical centers, pharmacies, hospitals, and urgent care centers.

There are approximately 630,000 active Group Health members.

Components of Group Health
There are 5 distinct organizations under the Group Health umbrella.
As the original piece of the organization, Group Health Cooperative has provided high-quality affordable healthcare to northwest residents since 1945.  Two-thirds of members seek care at Group-Health owned offices and clinics. Although care is available (with a referral) outside of the Group Health system, most providers refer patients to Group Health specialists.
In 1990, Group Health Options began providing a variety of health insurance options to local employers who wanted more flexibility.  Although each insurance plan varies, members usually have more choices in where to seek care.
Based in Seattle, Washington, Group Health Research Institute runs the organization’s research. Work from the Institute has helped Group Health become a national leader in treatment of certain medical conditions.
Group Health Foundation coordinates larger efforts to improve member and community health.  For example, Group Health collaborated with local public health departments to coordinate a childhood immunization initiative. supports members to develop and test innovative ideas.
Group Health Physicians is a medical professional organization that includes medical providers who work within the Group Health system.

Historical Highlights
1945: Social activists are inspired to found Group Health after hearing from Dr. Michael Shadid who founded the country’s first health cooperative in Oklahoma.
1946: The first formal membership meeting was held.
1947: Group Health opens their first hospital after buying out the Medical Security Clinic of Seattle.
1955: Group Health begins offering free Pap screenings to members.
1984: The New England Journal of Medicine recognizes Group Health for providing equal care for less money.
1991: Group Health opens Teen Pregnancy and Parenting Clinic.
1995: Group Health and Virginia Mason Medical Center partner together to improve care offered to Group Health members.
2016: Group Health members approve Kaiser Permanente’s bid to buy Group Health.  The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is reviewing this request; transition plans remain unclear.

Over 60 years ago, Group Health began challenging conventional ideas about how healthcare is supposed to work. The organization’s five components have helped Group Health become a strong force in healthcare regionally and nationally.  The organization’s longtime focus on preventative care led the way as the rest of the country’s healthcare world struggled to catch up.  It will be interesting to see where the organization goes next.


Crowley, Walt and Staff. “Group Health Cooperative: Part Two-Open for Business.” November 28, 2005. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Crowley, Walt and Staff. “Group Health Cooperative: Part Three-Growing Up and Out, 1952-1965.” March 25, 2006. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Crowley, Walt and Staff. “Group Health Cooperative: Part Five- Reform and Renewal, 1981-1990.” August 9, 2007. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Crowley, Walt and Staff. “Group Health Cooperative: Part Six- Marriages and Divorces, 1991-2000.” August 9, 2007. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Crowley, Walt and Staff. “Group Health Cooperative: Part Seven-New Beginnings, Old Challenges, 2001-” August 9, 2007. (  retrieved November 13, 2016.
Group Health. “A Short History of Group Health.” 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Group Health. “Group Health Foundation | Childhood Immunization Initiative.” 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Group Health. “Group Health Foundation.” 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Group Health. “Meet the Birnbaums, Two Group Health Pioneers.” 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Group Health. “Overview.” 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.
Wikipedia. “Group Health Cooperative.” September 3, 2016. ( retrieved November 13, 2016.

Shelton, WA Community Highlight

Mason County Court House, Shelton, WA

Located on the shores of Hammersley Inlet, Shelton is the county seat of Mason County. It’s 83 miles southwest of Seattle, and 381 miles southwest of Spokane. The city is also 133 miles north of Portland.

The Squaxin Island Tribe lived in Shelton long before any settlers arrived in the 1850s. David Shelton and his family were among the first settlers to arrive in the area. Originally known as Sheltonville, the area grew slowly over the next decades. In 1888, it became the county seat of Mason County. In 1890, the city was incorporated. Shelton’s logging industry began around the same time as the city was incorporated.

The twentieth century brought more change to Shelton. A fire destroyed much of downtown Shelton in 1914. Shelton General Hospital was built in 1920. In 1926, the new Northern Pacific Railroad line connected Shelton with surrounding areas, allowing local businesses to ship their products farther than before. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Shelton exported several million Christmas trees. Throughout the country, Shelton was known as Christmastown, USA. Today’s Shelton is no longer the leading exporter of Christmas trees.

Shelton is the only city in the state that has a mayor/commission form of government. Instead of having a mayor and board of city commissioners, Shelton elects three city commissioners who have equal power. One of the three commissioners holds the honorary mayor title.

The 2010 United States Census listed 9,834 residents living in Shelton, Washington.

Although summers are typically dry, Shelton averages 65 inches of precipitation annually. Average summer temperatures range from the high 40s to the high 70s. Average winter temperatures range from the mid-30s to the low 50s. Due to a variety of factors, the city is prone to extreme summer highs and extreme winter lows.

Shelton’s economy historically relied on farming, ranching, and logging. Dairy and oysters also played important roles. Today, Shelton’s most common industries now are retail trade, manufacturing, and agriculture.

The Shelton Public School District has 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 3 high schools. The nearest colleges include, the Evergreen State College and South Puget Sound Community College.

With its waterfront location, Shelton offers a variety of activities. Visit Jarrell Cove State Park for different options for outdoor adventures, including camping, hiking, and boating. The park also operates satellite parks that are accessible through Jarrell Cove’s grounds. Located in nearby Union, Washington, Hunter Farms offers seasonal events and crops for visitors to explore. Located in an old Pontiac dealership, Grove Street Brewhouse serves house-made beers and sodas. All ages are welcome at Grove Street, so it’s a great option for the whole family.

Becker, Paula. “Shelton–Thumbnail History.” September 27, 2010. ( retrieved October 8, 2016. “Shelton, Washington.” ( retrieved October 4, 2016.

Grove Street Brewhouse. “About Us.” ( retrieved October 8, 2016

Hunter Farms. “Hunter Farms.” ( retrieved October 8, 2016.

Mason County Forest Festival. “Mason County Forest Festival.” ( retrived October 8, 2016. “Things to Do.” ( retrieved October 4, 2016

Shelton School District. “Shelton School District.” ( retrieved October 4, 2016.

Washington State Parks. “Jarrell Cove State Park.” ( retrieved October 8, 2016.

Wikipedia. “Shelton, Washington.” September 23, 2016. (,_Washington) retrieved October 4, 2016.