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.

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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.

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Young adult signs up for “sense of security” after graduation

Veronica Quintero

Veronica Quintero, Miss Seafair 2011, enrolled in Washington state’s health care exchange.

Many uninsured young adults are recent college graduates who are either unemployed or underemployed.

But even university students who have access to affordable health insurance through their institutions sometimes forgo signing up.

Eligible but unenrolled

For two years, while attending the University of Washington, Veronica Quintero went without coverage. She didn’t enroll in her school’s health plan because, even as an uninsured student, she received reduced medical rates. “I opted out of enrolling in a plan because I felt healthy and because I was rarely seeking medical health care,” Quintero said.

By Quintero’s graduation in June 2013, however, she had come to recognize the value of health care, just as her eligibility was expiring.

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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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Preventive services are an exciting prospect for new enrollees

New insurance coverage already is allowing nearly 70,000 King County residents to take charge of their health, and as a result, improve the quality of their lives — often after years of neglect.

Rebecca, 31, signed up for Washington Apple Health at a Seattle Public Library enrollment event. She says getting covered might be saving her life.

Rebecca, 31, signed up for Washington Apple Health at a Seattle Public Library enrollment event. She says getting covered might be saving her life.

Rebecca Bartlett, a 31-year-old UPS employee and part-time custodian, says she’s most excited about accessing critical preventive services — like OB/GYN screenings, dental work and updating the expired prescription on her decade-old glasses.”I haven’t had my teeth cleaned in years!” she said, soon after enrolling this fall. “The last time was at a free health fair. I’m so grateful to have been given this chance.”

Bartlett, who is newly eligible for care under Washington Apple Health, has been uninsured since she was 17. She says finally being able to take care of her health will help tremendously in turning her life around.

Bartlett spent much of her adult life suffering through health problems and struggling with homelessness. She spent years watching other people in her position die from preventable illness simply because they could not afford to go to the doctor. Continue reading

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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Medicaid expansion brings peace of mind to new customers

With all the computer problems and heated debate about the Affordable Care Act, sometimes we need a reminder of why we have the law at all.

Gary Flaten knew being uninsured in his sixties meant gambling with his health. But he simply could no longer afford the steep cost of a private insurance plan. The Seattle-based caterer was just four years away from Medicare eligibility in 2010 when he was forced to drop his health coverage altogether.

Gary Flaten, 64, dropped his private insurance plan three years ago. He is now enrolled in Washington Apple Care.

Since Gary made his living with three independently- contracted  part time jobs, he didn’t enjoy the perks of employer subsidized insurance. And even being in excellent health, the best private plan he could find burdened him with $300 monthly premiums.

“That’s $3,600 a year for nothing,” he says. “That’s a lot of money. I decided it wasn’t worth it.”

At age 61, he realized he’d have to drop the plan and hope his health didn’t take a turn for the worse.

But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Gary no longer has to live in fear of getting sick or injured before his 65th birthday (when he’ll automatically join the Medicare program). Assisted by outreach specialists at partner organization WithinReach, he was able to enroll quickly and easily in Washington Apple Health and breathe a sigh of relief.

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