Health insurance help at Northgate Mall and in South Park

For anyone with questions about getting health insurance, or worried about making the right choice — two enrollment events this weekend could help.

And the timing is right. There’s less than one month left in the “open enrollment” period for Washington Healthplanfinder. The deadline is Feb. 15 to be able to purchase insurance with discounts available only through the Healthplanfinder website. Anyone without insurance could face a penalty when they file their income tax return.

A multicultural enrollment event and health fair in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood will feature bilingual assistance in at least six languages, with a special focus on Spanish.

Read the full story and find event details at: Health insurance help at Northgate Mall and in South Park.

South Park “blitz” — spreading the word about health insurance

By Penny Lara, Access and Outreach Project Manager

In the South Park neighborhood this month, you could find a group of “Promotoras” (Community Health Workers) from the South Park Information and Resource Center (SPIARC), members of the Western Washington National Association of Hispanic Nurses (WW-NAHN), UW School of Nursing students and staff from Public Health – Seattle & King County out canvassing.  Together, we walked through South Park and talked with community members about the ongoing open enrollment for health insurance coverage.

Continue reading and see the photos: South Park “blitz”— spreading the news about health insurance enrollment at Public Health Insider, a new blog from Public Health – Seattle & King County.


You have insurance, now what?

doctor's office

Flickr Photo by Mercy Health


Maybe you have never had health insurance. Or perhaps it has been so long since you were last covered that you don’t recall how to use your policy or what to expect when you do.

Enrolling in an insurance plan is just the starting point for your journey through the health system.

To smooth your trip through the medical complex, and to maximize the benefits of your new insurance policy, here are some tips:

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STD warriors see insurance can save lives, prevent epidemics

Clinic IPAs

Kathy Silverman, Michal Blum and Hal Garcia-Smith assist patients enroll in health insurance at the STD Clinic at Harborview.

There’s been a double-good news story on AIDS in recent years — that it can be effectively treated using medications, and the treatment reduces the risk for transmitting HIV through sex.

The trouble is that the population at highest risk for HIV is often low-income and uninsured. That makes it hard for them to take an expensive mix of pills, on an ongoing basis.

Now, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act can make these medications far more accessible to those infected with HIV, in addition to increasing the likelihood that this group gets tested in the first place.

This is one reason why Public Health’s STD Clinic at Harborview has embraced the new role of health insurance advocacy, integrating enrollment into the daily operations of the clinic.

“The population that we see at the clinic is here because we offer services regardless of ability to pay,” said Michal Blum, a full-time In-Person Assister at the STD Clinic. “So that brings in populations that might not be working, that might not have access to regular care, more high-risk populations and people that we know could benefit from having personal assistance enrolling in health insurance.”

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Broad agency involvement helps boost King County enrollment

County enrollment now totals more than 140,000, in private and Medicaid plans.

Healht PSA

A “Coverage is Here” PSA at a King County Transit sales office.

Reaching the uninsured in King County requires efforts that go beyond individual agencies like Public Health or the Department of Community and Human Services.

The county’s goal of enrolling as many uninsured people as possible and its dedication to the Equity and Social Justice Initiative require various — sometimes unlikely — King County government branches to get creative when encouraging enrollment in Washington Healthplanfinder.

For instance:

  • The Assessor’s office has been including health care enrollment information in its annual mailings to all King County property owners.
  • The Department of Transportation rolled out a number of ads for Washington Healthplanfinder on its buses’ interiors and exteriors. Additonally, Transit Sales Offices display health care PSAs on TV monitors and offer literature on the enrollment process.
  • The Department of King County Information Technology has made enrollment more accessible through the county’s various web pages. By providing more links to Washington Healthplanfinder and a health care reform footer display on all King County government web pages, residents can easily find the information they need to enroll in the health exchange.

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After stitching you up, hospitals give ‘first aid’ to enrollment

Swedish event

A Swedish staff member helps enroll patients at a December event on First Hill.

With the blood flow finally stanched by gauze, glue and several hundred dollars’ worth of stitches, you now sit propped up in a stiff but comforting hospital bed. Your family members survey the damage, and a hospital administrator enters the room, clasping a laptop in her hands. She is there to sign you up for health insurance.

The financial costs of your medical misadventure could tally well over $2,000 for, say, three stitches. That’s why King County hospitals, such as Swedish and UW Medicine, have their staff patrol the ER, approaching the uninsured and eligible with the new options available to them from Washington Healthplanfinder.

Creating teams of assisters

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Leadership Circle’s focus zooms in on those eligible for subsidies

Leadership Circle

Part of the Leadership Circle includes (l-r), co-chairs Gordon McHenry Jr. and Tom Gibbons, Dr. David Fleming M.D. and Daphne Pie of PHSKC.

As organizations across King County have been preparing for the big push before the major deadline of March 31, key strategic ideas have been hashed out by the King County Healthcare Enrollment Leadership Circle.

Members of the Leadership Circle are appointed representatives from the local business, health and non-profit sectors, who have committed to enrollment outreach.

Their winter meeting focused on the progress of the Washington Healthplanfinder,  sharing successful strategies and how to fine-tune approaches for the remainder of the year.

The good news is more than 120,000 King County residents have enrolled in the new health care plans. Yet, in some income brackets a smaller number of the uninsured have been signing up.

The eligible yet uninsured

The committee focused on individuals who are eligible for “qualified health plans” (with incomes higher than those eligible for Apple Health/Medicaid), since fewer in this bracket have enrolled. Many in this segment are young adults (ages 18-34) who qualify for subsidies but haven’t yet enrolled in the health exchange, as David Fleming, M.D., Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, told the committee.

Fleming noted a few of the larger demographic groups in this population of uninsured:

Medicaid expansion helps inmates avoid the revolving door

Prison Bars

Expanded Medicaid coverage could help inmates stay out of jail, once they are released. Flickr photo by Thomas Hawk

Meet Tony, who’s been booked into King County Jail more than twenty times. He has Hepatitis C, an enlarged liver, and a long history of alcoholism. He’s getting treated while in jail, but what happens when he gets out?

The link between jail-time and medical needs — and how the Affordable care Act can change the equation — is the focus of Ruby de Luna’s new report for KUOW.

The revolving door for jail prisoners — who come back multiple times — often has a link to inaccessible medications or untreated drug and alcohol addictions. For many of them, jail is where they finally get the medical care they need.

Then, when they’re set free, their physical and psychological health declines again, contributing to how they fall back into criminal habits.

The Affordable Care Act offers a tool to address inmates’ health concerns after they leave jail — through the expansion of Medicaid.

King County is involving caseworkers, release planners and insurance companies to provide inmates with health options as they get ready to transition back into society. Continue reading

Salvadoran consul: Insurance information is confidential

Keny López de Zuleta

General Consul Keny López de Zuleta in her office at the El Salvador Consulate in Seattle.

One challenge under the new health care law — nationally and locally — has been persuading Latinos to sign-up. Latinos are a diverse group, but the example of local Salvadoran immigrants helps illustrate the obstacles.

Enough Salvadorans live in the King County area to form a small city — more than 40,000 total. Sometimes, they encounter an issue with a passport, require a birth certificate, need a medical referral to a Spanish-speaking physician or any other number of services.

And many of them also need health insurance.

They often seek answers at the El Salvadoran Consulate in Seattle, which is spreading the message — applying for insurance will not expose you to any immigration scrutiny.

However, many Salvadorans’ status in the U.S. makes them uncertain about applying.

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Making sense of the metals – gold, silver and bronze


Different metal levels help shoppers select plans to suit their budget and health needs. Flickr Photo by Koston Photography

Like champion Olympic athletes, each of the new health insurance plans has a metal status: bronze, silver, or gold. There are no winners or losers, no first or last place finishers, but the metal tiers help shoppers compare similar plans from different companies.

As you compare the three levels, you’ll see how the pricing differs. Even within a particular category, premiums, copayments and deductibles vary.

Broadly, here is what you can expect from the three metal groups offered in Washington state. (All plans cover ten essentials: hospitalization, preventive care, outpatient care, emergency care, laboratory services, maternity and newborn care, pediatric care, mental health and substance abuse services, rehabilitation and prescriptions.)

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