As thousands of residents scrambled to apply for health insurance before a Dec. 23 deadline, many of them needed personal help. And often, the friendly face greeting them at a library or community center belongs to a member of Public Health’s Access and Outreach group.
The team worked nights and weekends, and in the final hours fielded calls at an improvised call-center to solve some of the most challenging problems with online enrollments in Washington Healthplanfinder.
“I make sure to smile before I answer the call,” said Llonia Patterson, who’s been with Public Health nearly nine years and is used to handling stressed out phone-calls. “It helps me make sure I have a smile in my voice and don’t sound stern to the client.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine stopped by the 10th floor of the Chinook Building to thank the team for their efforts and learn more about this extended outreach. In the brief moments between a steady stream of phone calls from uninsured residents, he shook hands with staff and saw why this work requires such a personal touch.
Patterson said the work is rewarding. “I grew up without health insurance, so I know the need,” she said.
Community partners earned thanks for their extra commitment, too. King County leads a network of 15 community organizations that offer trained In-Person Assisters (IPAs) at many locations around the county.
For example, on that same day, WithinReach was staffing an in-person event featured in TV coverage by KING-5.
Based on the interest shown in December, the demand for affordable health care is clearly huge. As of Jan. 2, nearly 70,000 uninsured King County residents had completed applications for insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder.