By Keith Seinfeld
Public Health – Seattle & King County
If the thought of shopping for health insurance sounds worse than actually getting sick, it might be time to try out the new shopping tools available starting Nov. 1, 2018.
It’s the start of the sixth Open Enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act – and the process keeps getting easier and better. The Washington Healthplanfinder website helps you compare costs and see what you actually get.
There’s plenty of choice, but it’s not overwhelming. In King County, people can choose from 20 different insurance plans.
And, the price of insurance for many people will be the same as last year, or even lower. More than half the customers who buy individual or family insurance plans from Washington Healthplanfinder get a discount, through credits that are based on income level.
In-person assistance and telephone support near you
Local health leaders are spreading the word and getting ready for November.
“Our health insurance Navigators are so critically important. They meet the clients face to face, and they really understand what it means to have the security of health insurance, so people can access medical care for their families,” said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health—Seattle & King County.
“Our message is simple: Get health insurance, now is the time, and we’ll make it easy,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a News Release.
Public Health is the lead agency for helping people get enrolled. They’ve already started outreach activities in communities where the data shows people are eligible for low-priced insurance but haven’t enrolled.
For example, in Federal Way, Renton, Auburn, and other cities, health care Navigators have been meeting with local businesses, to educate them about helping part-time workers or small business employees get insurance.
Enrollment help will be available throughout November, including “Health Care Happy Hours” at local restaurants or cafes.
Dozens of events are listed online, including:
- Federal Way Enrollment Center (1640 South 318th Place, Federal Way), Saturdays and Mon.-Thurs. (with flu shots on Nov. 1)
- Maple Valley Fire Department (22225 SE 231st Street, Maple Valley), on Nov. 1, from 1-5pm
- Auburn Library (1102 Auburn Way South, Auburn), on Nov. 5, 12, 19, & 26, from 5-8pm
- The Landing (Renton) shopping center (828 North 10th Place, Renton), on Dec. 1, from 10am-3pm
- South Park Community Center (8319 8th Avenue South, Seattle), on Dec. 15, from 10am-3pm (with free dental screenings and mammograms)
For more locations and answers to questions, visit www.kingcounty.gov/coverage.
Cutting through the confusion
The takeaway message: Get insurance that covers all of the basics – so that you’re covered in case of a surprise illness or diagnosis. All plans sold through Washington Healthplanfinder include preventive care and screenings, hospitalizations, prescription medicines, check-ups and more.
In King County, people have continued to enroll in health insurance plans, despite all the confusion about repealing the Affordable Care Act. While the federal government has reduced funding for outreach Navigators, the Navigator network in King County is funded through the state and is going strong with more than 270 local Navigators.
However, a shorter enrollment period (just six weeks, compared to ten weeks last year) and ongoing confusion have created challenges.
But, King County has managed to keep the uninsured rate at half what it was before the Affordable Care Act.
“We cannot go backward,” said Hayes. “We cannot go back to the days when health insurance was out of reach for hundreds of thousands of residents.”
Open Enrollment is from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, 2018. All enrollment is through the Washington Healthplanfinder website, operated by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
How to get more information or help:
- Use the WAPlanfinder mobile app (which can use your current location to connect you to the nearest help)
- Call Healthplanfinder’s Call Center – 1-855-923-4633
- Call King County’s help line – 1-800-756-5437
- Compare insurance plans at Washington Healthplanfinder
- Check out King County’s enrollment assistance tips
- Come to an outreach site, listed on our calendar
- Find a Navigator anywhere in Washington
Reminder: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice of 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year.