The past three years have proven historic for improving health insurance coverage across America – and especially in King County. Enrollment efforts led by Public Health—Seattle & King County helped push the county’s rate of uninsured adults below eight percent – cutting the rate more than 50-percent since 2013.
That represents an increase of more than 115,000 additional adults with insurance. And for each of those newly insured individuals, the security of health coverage can be as important as the actual care they receive.
“You dialed me into health insurance and … this allowed me peace and sanity, during a very frightening time,” said one client in a message to an enrollment Navigator who assisted her through the online process.
The fourth enrollment season launches on November 1st, and the enrollment strategists at Public Health—Seattle & King County are preparing to reach an estimated 90,000 adults who remain uninsured and eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Meeting people where they are — in neighborhood locations
The first step this year, says Daphne Pie, manager of the Access & Outreach program and leader of the county’s enrolment network, is to strengthen the best practices they created in the first three years (which have been emulated by agencies across the country).
The enrollment Navigators will fan out across the county to help people with Washington Healthplanfinder, the online enrollment and eligibility system:
- using zip code analysis to find where large numbers of people without insurance are living
- creating partnerships among health care organizations, community groups, businesses, and government agencies
- devising unique ways to reach communities such as artists and musicians (“Health Care Happy Hours”); taxi and Uber drivers; and Latino and Vietnamese small businesses
“Storefronts” and working with small businesses
The strategy of opening a permanent storefront “assistance office” with daily business hours was new a year ago — and now the idea is spreading. Based on zip code analysis, new storefront offices are opening in Federal Way and Shoreline. These areas are hotspots with more than 2,000 uninsured adults living nearby. Two more locations in south King County are under consideration for storefronts.
And the original assistance storefront, a partnership with Metro Transit’s reduced fare ORCA LIFT pass, remains open in Pioneer Square at 201 S. Jackson St. All of these offices will operate Monday through Saturday during enrollment season.
The strategy of working with businesses that have a strong community presence expands this year, too. Special enrollment events will be held at Goodwill stores, Hispanic restaurants, and gathering places such as Café Racer in Seattle’s University District.
“We found that local businesses and public places like libraries can be great partners because they are so well connected in the community and can bring people to an enrollment event,” said Pie.
More than 200 Navigators gather on Friday, October 21, for a full-day of training and preparation.
Ultimately, helping people get insured is an essential step toward building a more resilient and healthy community.
Getting health insurance assistance
- Find answers at Coverage is Here or call Public Health’s assistance hotline: 800-756-5437
- Find locations with Navigators on the online calendar
- Enroll directly at Washington Healthplanfinder from Nov. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017.
- Washington Apple Health – providing free insurance to those at the lowest range of the income spectrum – is open year-round for enrollment.
Some upcoming special enrollment events include:
- Nov. 5 – Bellevue’s Crossroads Shopping Center, 15600 NE 8th Street, 10am-3pm
- Nov. 5 – Extended hours at ORCA-LIFT storefront in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, 201 South Jackson St, 10am-4pm; and at The Commons at Federal Way storefront (near Target), 10am-6pm
- Nov. 9 – Shoreline Goodwill, 14500 15th Ave NE, 11am-1pm
- Nov. 19 – North Seattle’s Meridian Center for Health, 10521 Meridian Ave N, 10am-2pm