Uninsured in King County? Outreach team has a plan to help you

The Open Enrollment period for purchasing discount health insurance begins next week, and King County is offering free expert help – with special emphasis on areas where large numbers of uninsured people live and work.

Those areas include south King County cities such as Auburn and Federal Way, along with some neighborhoods in Seattle and Bellevue. Some of the major enrollment events this year include:

Navigators preparing for an enrollment event

Health insurance Navigators preparing for an enrollment event at Southcenter Mall, Nov. 2014

  • Sat. Nov. 7 – Seattle City Hall, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Nov. 14 – The Outlet Collection (mall), Auburn, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Nov. 21 – Bellevue Crossroads Shopping Center, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Jan. 9 – Third Place Commons, Lake Forest Park, 10am-3pm
  • Sat. Jan. 16 – Federal Way Commons, 10am-3pm

Health insurance assistance will also return to public library branches in neighborhoods across the county.

This year, many people signing up for insurance can also get Metro Transit’s discount transit passes (called ORCA LIFT).

Taxi drivers, restaurant and nail salon workers

Overall, a targeted outreach effort will help the remaining adults and families in King County who do not have insurance — and connect them with Washington Healthplanfinder. Public Health—Seattle & King County has analyzed enrollment patterns and data from the US Census Bureau to identify zip codes where there are likely larger numbers of people who remain uninsured.  Those areas will get extra attention. Continue reading

How to get health insurance help before the Feb. 15 deadline

Need help sorting through insurance choices? Not sure of the difference between a co-pay and a premium?

Don’t let these stop you from getting health insurance before February 15 — the last day of Open Enrollment for reduced-cost insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Getting covered feels great! (flickr photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/pc-myshots-at-photography/)

Getting covered feels great! (flickr photo by pc-myshots@photography)

(After that date, enrollment still continues if your income allows you to qualify for Apple Health, or if you have a major life-event, such as getting married, losing a job or having a baby.)

To get help right away, start with King County’s coverage webpage.Special in-person enrollment events this weekend include:

  • Saturday, February 14, 11am-4pm, The Commons at Federal Way (mall), at Macy’s Court, 1928 South Commons, Federal Way, WA
  • Continue reading

Special “watch/learn/do-it” insurance workshop – DIY or get personal help

Why do some people still not have health insurance, a year after the new system (Washington Healthplanfinder) launched?

Our enrollment experts learned that a lot of people either get stuck on some small detail in the process – or they fear getting stuck, so they don’t even want to try the website. (Others simply don’t have internet access at home.)

That’s why Public Health created a special “Watch/Learn/Do-it” enrollment event, this Saturday, December 6, at Seattle’s downtown library. We’re offering a free one-hour workshop-style presentation, where anyone can bring their own laptop or tablet and sign-up for insurance as we go step by step through the process.

Read more at Public Health Insider — Special “watch/learn/do-it” insurance workshop – DIY or get personal help.

Eat, shop, and protect yourself & family at special enrollment events

Southcenter To DoOver the next two weekends, you can get lunch, see a movie, buy a shirt – and protect your family with health insurance.

The new enrollment season with Washington Healthplanfinder (under the Affordable Care Act) starts Nov. 15. Enrollment experts from Public Health and our partner organizations will be helping people sign-up at:

Last year, 85% of people who signed-up got financial help to pay for their insurance.

If you’re enrolling online from home and need some help, the Public Health website has tips for where to turn. Continue reading

‘Tis the season to get enrolled (or make changes) in health insurance

2013 Blitz - Volunteer tacks freshly printed Washington Healthplanfinder posters in White Center, a year ago.

2013 Blitz – Volunteer tacks freshly printed Washington Healthplanfinder posters in White Center, a year ago.

Next Friday, November 15, launches the second season to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and Washington Healthplanfinder. Local efforts are stepping up.

Today, groups including staff from several Community Health Centers, Public Health staff, the network of 23 enrollment partners, and volunteers will distribute posters and flyers to locations throughout King County, such as community centers, libraries, YMCAs, and business districts

The groups will canvass neighborhoods to raise awareness about Open Enrollment, which runs from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. During this period, insurance policies are available with financial help through the Healthplanfinder website. To find out if you might qualify, type in your zip code, age and income into the form, and browse the options.

Anyone whose income qualifies for free coverage can sign up any time of year.  But the period for everyone else is limited each year. This year, new options are available for small businesses, too.

The goal: a healthier King County

King County made it a countywide priority to ensure all residents who are eligible for health coverage are enrolled. The evidence is clear: When people have access to affordable health care, they lead healthier, more productive lives.

Many people, who previously found health insurance financially out of reach, now qualify for free or low-cost insurance.

King County is promoting health insurance enrollment as part of our ongoing work to provide a safety net for those having trouble accessing the healthcare system — and as part of Executive Dow Constantine’s broader “Coverage is Here, King County” campaign, with a goal of ensuring that all King County residents have affordable access to health care.

Want to get involved?

Follow the conversation on social media and help spread the word. Use the #coverkc and #coverageishere hashtags and link up with Washington Healthplanfinder, Coverage is Here, and Public Health — Seattle & King County on Facebook and on Twitter at @Waplanfinder, @Coverageishere and @KCPubhealth.

No Foolin’: Enrollment continues if you qualify for Apple Health


If you or your family qualifies for Apple Health, there is no deadline to register for insurance.

A major component of the new Affordable Care Act in Washington state is expanded Medicaid coverage, or Apple Health as it is now called. This allows thousands more people statewide to qualify for free health insurance.

Although the open enrollment period has officially ended to buy into the insurance exchange, individuals and families who are eligible for Apple Health may continue to enroll throughout the year. In other words — there is no deadline.

Who qualifies? It depends on family size and household income

  • Individuals who earn less than $15,857 annually qualify
  • A family of four with a combined income below $32,500 will qualify
  • The more children or dependents in your family, the higher your household income level can be.

To find out instantly if you qualify, enter your income level, age, and household size using the calculator on this webpage.  Then, to sign up, go to Washington Healthplanfinder (click “OK” to the warning, and select “Apply for Coverage”). You’ll need your monthly household income, the social security number and date of birth for each member of your family seeking health insurance and any relevant immigration information. You should receive notification of your coverage options within the hour.

No matter what your income, anyone who experiences a “qualifying event,” such as getting married or changing jobs, can also sign-up outside the enrollment periods. Healthplanfinder offers some advice on how to qualify under these criteria.

While the federal deadlines do not apply to those who qualify for Apple Health, why wait? The sooner you apply, the sooner your insurance kicks in and you can better manage your and your family’s health.

Between jobs, the state exchange bridges the insurance gap

Alasia Canares

Alasia Canares was able to find insurance on Washington Healthplanfinder when her employer didn’t offer her coverage.

Substitute teachers always have it tough. Students rarely behave as well for the temporary instructor, who is rushing to figure out, or create, a lesson plan, and learn the names in a classroom. The work is sporadic, the benefits non-existent.

And when they do get longer-term work, it’s often a temporary contract. What happens when your health benefits start and then stop again within a year?

Alasia Canares had been working as a substitute teacher in various school districts throughout the state — and paying $500 a month for health insurance. The burden of these bills paired with her rent had become unbearable for her and her husband.

Yet Canares wanted insurance coverage.

From the time she turned 18 until she began teaching at the age of 28, Canares was uninsured. Now 35, she didn’t want to re-experience the anxiety that had dogged her during her youth.

So with help from one of King County’s in-person assisters, Canares enrolled in a subsidized plan on Washington Healthplanfinder.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

Cartoonists tell true stories about life (& angst) w/o insurance

by Meredith Li-Vollmer

David Lasky

“I’ve been uninsured for 7 years…” comic by David Lasky

David Lasky has every reason to be excited these days. He’s had steady work as a comics artist (you may have seen his recent poster design for the Jewish Film Festival or one of his covers for The Stranger).  He also won the prestigious Eisner award for his graphic novel with Frank Young, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.

And right now, he’s excited to have health insurance for the first time in seven years.

“I know how stressful it is when you don’t have insurance,” said Lasky. “And it’s a common experience for creative people. It’s a subject that comes up often when we get together.”

What it means to have insurance, in a four-panel cartoon

Lasky and other local comics artists and writers have created Comics 4 Health Coverage, to raise awareness that health coverage is now affordable, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.It’s a call to artists, writers, and anyone with a story to tell about what it means to have health insurance.

Continue reading

What could the penalty cost you?

Tax penalties for failing to purchase health insurance go into effect this year.

Avoid fees

Avoid penalties, enroll in health insurance by March 31.

If, by April 1, you are without coverage and don’t meet the law’s exemption status, you face a fine based on your household income.

Here’s how the penalties (officially called “individual shared responsibility payments”) break down.

Exemptions may apply

If the lowest priced plan available to you on the marketplace (Washington Healthplanfinder) would cost more than eight percent of your household income, you are exempt from purchasing health insurance.

If you are facing a major financial hardship such as bankruptcy or eviction, you might avoid the penalty, too. Other exemptions, such as religious objections, apply.

Most penalties will cost more than $95

The most commonly cited figure, a $95 penalty, is a minimum. It applies specifically to unmarried individuals with no dependents making less than $19,650. Higher income-earning individuals will face higher penalties. Forbes gives the example of a single person making $30,000 a year, who would pay a tax penalty of $200, in addition to the cost of all of her own health expenses.

Continue reading