Enrollment deadline meets the tax-man, and how Public Health is helping meet the need

For anyone hoping to buy discounted health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, the extended enrollment period ends on April 17 — and that date is no coincidence.

3rd Place enrollment
Luis Salazar helps a client enroll in health insurance and ORCA Lift, at Third Place Commons

Many people are preparing to meet the April 15 IRS deadline for income tax returns, and some will suddenly discover they owe a tax penalty for having no health insurance. And they might want to get insurance now, to avoid a bigger penalty next year.

Anticipating some last-minute interest in getting help, the Public Health Access & Outreach team is working with our county-wide network of insurance “Navigators” to extend a helping hand in this final week. At a special event on Saturday in Shoreline, experts will offer free help, with assistance in multiple languages. They’ll also sign-up people for Metro’s reduced fare ORCA Lift card.  Why Shoreline? There’s an interesting answer, but first here are the details:

  • Where: International Community Health Services (ICHS), 16549 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, WA
  • When: Saturday, April 11, from 10am – 3pm
  • Languages: English, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese

Going where the uninsured live

Ever since the launch of Washington Healthplanfinder, King County has been using demographic data to guide where concentrated outreach is most needed. The strategy team looks at maps of where the highest numbers of uninsured people live, and we talk with community partner groups about who is best situated to reach those areas.

Now, some updated data tells us that the strategy is working, and it also points to areas in the county that most likely still have the most need. These are estimates, because we don’t have detailed survey data from uninsured people.  So our epidemiologists dug deeper in analyzing what data that is available. We were able to look at which zip codes in King County have the most people eligible for free or reduced cost insurance and compare that to which zip codes have the most and least people enrolled in Healthplanfinder or Apple Health (the state’s free Medicaid insurance program).

What we found:

  1. Our tactics have been working. We have the most enrollment in the zip codes with the highest need.
  2. Even though the high-need zip codes have the most enrollment, many of them still have the large numbers of people who still need coverage.
  3. A few zip codes (such as a portion of Shoreline that includes Aurora Avenue) that we had not expected have higher need and lower enrollment.

The data does not tell us precisely where uninsured people live, or put precise numbers on each zip code.

But the analysis does enable Public Health–Seattle & King County to broadly identify potential areas to focus our outreach and enrollment. So, the Access & Outreach team met with community outreach partners and updated the places they will visit this month and for the rest of the year. One outcome: the event on April 11 at International Community Health Services.

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I'm part of the communications team at Public Health - Seattle & King County and work closely with all of the programs in the Community Health Services Division.