Talking about health insurance in every branch of government

Why would the agency where you get a building permit be thinking about health insurance?

This fall, health care enrollment via Washington Healthplanfinder is a priority for county and city agencies far beyond the Public Health department. Each of King County’s various branches (along with many cities, including Seattle agencies) are also engaged in outreach efforts.

Postering King County offices

Flyers for the Healthplanfinder are in offices across King County

The idea is embodied in King County’s Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) work, launched by Executive Dow Constantine in 2010.

The goal is to improve the quality of life for all residents. And, building a stronger community includes building a healthier community. King County has some huge disparities when it comes to health coverage.

The county’s ESJ work calls for reducing social and economic disparities through cross-agency collaboratation.

Four current examples show how this can work:

  • Department of Community and Human Services: Producing a “Health Care Reform Update” newsletter that reaches dozens of community groups and agencies, which in turn work closely with uninsured King County residents.

  • Department of Permitting and Environmental Review: Staff are giving informational flyers to customers with every permit, and in the public waiting area, flyers are available to the public and employees.

  • Department of Natural Resources and Parks: Briefing community organizations about enrollment opportunities — so people living in unincorporated areas are aware of the new insurance options available to them.

  • Department of Executive Services: Providing information and materials at food banks and libraries, through the Office of Civil Rights and Open Government.

Everyone needs access to health and human services to reach their full potential. Having insurance tends to keep people healthier, year-in and year-out, because of the preventive benefits. People in King County with the most unmet medical needs also report the most unhealthy days and the lowest incomes, illustrating the vicious cycle of poverty and poor health outcomes.

The comprehensive outreach plan requires all departments and agencies to come together and “work as ‘one King County’ to reach the goal of full enrollment” in health insurance, says Matías Valenzuela, King County Equity & Social Justice Manager.

The inter-relatedness is illustrated in this infographic:

ESJ tree

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