Why so many people end up in tears, hugs at enrollment events

Carissa Brooks left Crossroads mall with a smile, after getting health coverage.

Carissa Brooks left Crossroads mall with a smile, after getting health coverage.

The story of Carissa Brooks, as told so beautifully by Seattle Times reporter Jay Greene, is a microcosm of how getting health coverage can transform lives.

Ms Brooks has been living without health insurance because she works, and her income has been just above the minimum for the state/federal Medicaid program.

“I have to work. I have to provide for my kids,” Brooks told the Times.

Last year, she learned she has a disorder that causes joint pain, hives, and caused her hair to fall out. But without insurance, she can’t afford treatment.

When her enrollment was complete — and she learned she qualifies for free insurance with the new expansion of Medicaid — the Times reports she hugged her In-Person Assister (IPA) and nearly cried.

That was in the middle of a busy corridor at Bellevue Crossroads Shopping Center, where Public Health setup 17 booths with In-Persons Assisters, providing translation into eight languages.

Amidst the Saturday shoppers, more than 220 people stopped by the Public Health information desk, and nearly 90 took the time to enroll, via Washington Healthplanfinder. One email after the event included a similar anecdote:

“My friend started to cry after Carol [Allen of Public Health] told her she would qualify for full Medicaid benefits under this new plan, and Carol hugged her!”

With more than 180,000 uninsured adults in King County, prior to the Oct. 1 launch of the state’s insurance exchange, that’s a lot of people carrying the stress of untreated illnesses and injuries, along with the worry of unaffordable medical bills.

Helping those people is one reason more than 500 people signed up to get trained as IPAs in King County, and hundreds more statewide.

Looking for in-person enrollment assistance near your home or work? Our website lists many opportunities by city.

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