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

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.

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.

‘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.

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

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

Continue reading

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

IPAs venture into snow, mountains to enroll 600 seasonal workers

Bundled up IPAs at Stevens Pass

Bundled up IPAs (Jen Covert, Penny Lara and Willie Allen) at Stevens Pass

They’re working weekends, evenings … and now venturing into the deep snow, to help people sign-up for health insurance.

Stevens Pass ski resort has about 600 seasonal/part-time workers. The resort does insure its permanent, full-time staff, but it wants this year’s seasonal staff to be insured, too.

New workers are attending orientations, filling out forms, etc., so it’s a good time for them to enroll in an insurance plan. They can make those choices any time, online, and pick a plan that best fits their needs. In-Person Assisters are there — from Public Health – Seattle & King County along with Snohomish, Chelan and Douglas counties — to help with any hickups they encounter in the system and guide them through the online process.

Continue reading

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

I got a letter about my insurance, do I need a broker or “assister”?

More than 500 people in King County have been trained as “In-Person Assisters,” to help people enroll in the new Washington Healthplanfinder. but, there are also private insurance agents who help people pick an insurance plan.  What’s the difference?

Elisa Hahn of KING5 TV explained the difference in a story just before the system launched:IPA Jefferson Rose on KING5

“Most in-person assisters have a background in community outreach. They have been trained and certified to help navigate the exchange process. By law, they must be impartial and cannot recommend a particular plan. They receive no commissions and their service is free.

“For the state certified brokers, their expertise is selling insurance. They have also been trained and certified to sell insurance on the Exchange. They can recommend what plan they think is better for you. They do receive commissions from insurance carriers, but their services are free for the customer.

Continue reading