Burien Council to be briefed on new Health Insurance at Oct. 7 meeting
More than 5,000 residents – a total of 22% percent of Burien’s population – are without health insurance, and the Burien City Council will hear all about that at its Oct. 7 meeting.
“That’s a threat not only to their personal health, but to their pocketbook, and to the local economy,” reads an announcement sent out by the city Tuesday (Sept. 24). “And that profile should change dramatically over the next several months, thanks to Washington’s new Health Benefit Exchange, a resource to buy affordable health insurance.”
The Burien City Council will be briefed at their meeting on Monday, Oct. 7 on “Coverage is Here King County,” the countywide effort to enroll newly eligible residents in health insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
Enrollment begins October 1, 2013, and coverage begins on January 1, 2014.
Over 2,000 of Burien residents will be eligible for free insurance through a greatly expanded Medicaid program, and another nearly 2,000 will be able to take advantage of the subsidies available through the Exchange. Overall, King County has 180,000 residents who are newly eligible for free or low-cost health insurance.
When people no longer have to worry about falling ill – or possible bankruptcy due to medical bills – they’re liberated to become more productive in the local economy.
Purchasing insurance will be easier than ever, but many people will still have questions or need help with the online-based enrollment. In Burien, Asian Counseling and Referral, HealthPoint, SeaMar, Open Arms Perinatal, Solid Ground, Washington CAN, and World Relief will provide in-person enrollment assistance from October 2013 through March of 2014.
In addition, partners like the Burien Public Library and Highline Medical Center will hold enrollment events to raise awareness about the insurance options available to residents of Burien.
New insurance options in Washington
The Affordable Care Act gave states the option of both expanding Medicaid and starting a health benefit exchange in order to reduce the number of uninsured.
The State of Washington opted to extend Medicaid benefits to all individuals under 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $15,865 for an individual. , The full cost of the expanded Medicaid program will be covered by the federal government for the first three years of the program (rather than the state’s current financial responsibility of 50 percent for Medicaid patients). The federal government’s share will gradually decrease to 90 percent by 2020.
The State of Washington agreed to plan and implement a state-based health benefit exchange, which is a marketplace for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase health insurance. Individuals and families with incomes between 139 percent and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for subsidies (technically a tax credit, but available immediately) through the exchange, making insurance options more affordable. The State’s exchange, called the Washington HealthPlanFinder, will begin enrollment on October 1, 2013 and insurance coverage begins on January 1, 2014.
Some individuals will remain uninsured, even after Medicaid expands and the Health Benefit Exchange are in place. They include undocumented immigrants, who are not eligible to receive Medicaid or purchase insurance through the exchange, and individuals who choose to pay a fine in order to opt-out of coverage.
Coverage is Here King County
In partnership with cities and local organizations, Public Health – Seattle & King County has launched a campaign called “Coverage is Here King County” to raise awareness of the new health insurance coverage available to all residents and to help them enroll.
The countywide effort to enroll 180,000 newly eligible King County residents in Medicaid and the exchange includes hundreds of community partners, who will provide a range of services ranging from outreach events to enrollment assistance.