To speak to South King County, it helps to know 9 languages


Annie Safar and Annya Pintak stand at Global to Local’s Connection Desk, which puts South King County residents in touch with community resources.

You may have heard how ethnic diversity has blossomed in South King County. The number of residents who self-identified as Asian, African-American, Hispanic, Native American or belonging to two or more races went up by an astonishing 66 percent in the 2010 census.

This includes many immigrants and others who have never had health insurance — individuals for whom words such as “deductible” or “copay” are not only foreign, but have no equivalent in their native language.

Global to Local is one community partner working to communicate the new health law to this population.

Opening the door for a diverse population

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How Seattle’s “Health Window” helps immigrants get the facts

A presenter speaks to a group at the Seattle Mexican Consulate's Ventanilla de Salud, or Health Window.

Listening and learning at the Mexican Consulate’s Ventanilla de Salud (Health Window)

If you walk past Seattle’s Mexican Consulate, you’ll often see people outside the front door, overflowing onto the sidewalk of 3rd Avenue. Inside, every chair is occupied and men and women lean against the walls.

As they wait for help with passports or birth certificates, everyone will be invited to visit the Ventanilla de Salud, or Health Window.

The Health Window is actually a room, where 35-40 immigrants a day might get their blood pressure checked, learn about AIDS, or get help with health insurance and Washington Healthplanfinder.

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Community college highlights complexity of immigrants

SCCCESLpresESL students attend an Affordable Care Act informational at South Seattle Community College.

South Seattle Community College hosted a spirited conversation on the Affordable Care Act in January.

Approximately 80 ESL students and staff at the college met with outreach specialists Callista Kennedy and Luis Salazar of Public Health – Seattle & King County, to discuss how the Affordable Care Act affects them.

Originally intended as a basic overview to the ACA, the open forum quickly revealed the enrollment complexities surrounding immigration and family status.  Continue reading

Better insurance: She went from high premiums to peace of mind

Just as the nation was hit with the Great Recession in 2008, Lola Peters lost her job at Macy’s, in the marketing department’s IT section. She was 58 at the time.

Flickr photo by attila acs

Lola Peters saw her savings drained by health insurance costs

Over the next few years, she learned exactly how health insurance can drain your bank account.

She kept her health coverage for 18 months, by paying for COBRA out of her savings.

“Truth is, I probably was eligible for Medicaid for a long time. I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to get by on my own,” said Peters.

Out of the frying pan, into …

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Why Healthplanfinder must get creative to reach the young adults

Washington Healthplanfinder has announced a new partnership with local concert giant Live Nation today that will help get thousands more young adults aware of health insurance.

It’s the latest move in Washington Healthplanfinder’s overall strategy to connect with so-called ‘young invincibles’ through non-traditional outreach and creative marketing.

Seattle rock band Hey Marseilles performed at Chop Suey to show their support for Obamacare

Seattle rock band Hey Marseilles performed at Chop Suey in November to show their support for Obamacare. We can expect more musical events promoting health insurance in the future thanks to Healthplanfinder’s new partnership with Livenation.

“We take pride in our music scene in the Seattle area, and a lot of people are really involved in that,” said Bethany Frey, senior communications specialist for the Healthplanfinder. “So, this is a good way to reach thousands of people locally.”

TV and radio advertisements are not enough to capture the attention of younger demographics, she said.

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An Executive-level thanks for extra hours during enrollment surge

Executive Dow Constantine says thanks to Llonia Patterson of Public Health's Access & Outreach team

King County Executive Dow Constantine says thanks to Llonia Patterson of Public Health’s Access & Outreach team.

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.

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2014 brings a fresh start for thousands of newly insured

Enrollment starts here

Planning on living healthier in 2014? That’ll be a lot easier if you’re one of the thousands of newly insured King County residents, with medical benefits starting this month.

Gaining access to medical care can mean a fresh start on life — especially for anyone with a chronic illness or injury.

For Christie Martin, an affordable health care plan is life changing. Her health started deteriorating when she lost her job – and with it, her health insurance – in 2008.

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Healthcare is almost too good to be true for the uninsured

For many new health insurance enrollees, the prospect of affordable medical care has been little more than a distant dream for years.

Now that coverage is finally available, they can hardly believe it’s really happening.

For self-employed artist Geoffrey Garza, health insurance means letting go of "living in fear" that he'll get sick or injured. He says getting covered is almost "too good to be true."

For self-employed artist Geoffrey Garza, finally being able to afford health insurance is almost “too good to be true.”

“I’ve been living in fear for so long,” says self-employed painter Geoffrey Garza, who recently enrolled in a plan through Washington Healthplanfinder. “There’s still a part of me that thinks this is too good to be true!”

For more than six years he was uninsured, while he taught art classes for underpriviledged youth during the week — and coached tennis every weekend.

“I have what you’d call weekend warrior injuries,” he says. “My dad always asks me, ‘why don’t you just go to the doctor?’ And I have to explain to him, well, it doesn’t work that way for me. It’s not that easy.”

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Demand for insurance grows, puts spotlight on In-Person Assisters

Carolina Marx was happy to have insurance when her daughter was born – and now she’s helping others get covered through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Carolina Marx has insurance for her own daughter – and she’s helping others get covered through Washington Healthplanfinder

A day in the life …

Meet the unsung heroes of the health reform roll-out — in Washington state and across the country. In-Person Assisters (IPAs) are helping folks navigate the Washington Healthplanfinder website, compare coverage plans and overcome any technical barriers to enrollment.

Without IPAs, countless people would be unable to access the health care coverage they’re eligible for.

A network of IPAs fanned out across King County, starting on October 1st. They each have 25-30 hours of certification training. Their focus has been on clients who have limited access to computers, speak limited English, or have other barriers to using the online enrollment system.

They’ve also become experts at solving error codes during these early stages, as the state and federal websites have worked out bugs in the systems.

“They get so excited — I’ve even had people cry!”

Carolina Marx, an IPA with Public Health – Seattle & King County, never knows what to expect going into work each day.   Continue reading