bigstockphoto_health_care_reform_green_road__5632944

Have WAHA walk you through every step of the way

By Andreas Aarsvold

 

 

 

In the coming months, we are going to hear a lot of discussion about the next steps of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion.

There are nearly one million people in Washington currently without health insurance, and by January 1, 2014, most of them will have an opportunity to obtain coverage.  That said, what does that really mean?  What will the process entail?

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a federal health and medical services program for individuals and families with low incomes.  If you qualify you can sign up for no cost.  Feel free to contact WAHA if you have any questions about your eligibility.

How many additional Washington residents will qualify for Medicaid?

In 2014, adults living at or below a 138% estimate of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) will be eligible for coverage.  This means that Medicaid coverage will extend to 328,000 additional Washington residents.  Locally, Whatcom County will see 7,500 residents newly eligible for coverage.  Coverage will not begin until January 1, but those who will be eligible will want to get the enrollment process started when the Washington Healthplanfinder – Washington’s state-based insurance exchange – goes online October 1, 2013.

But what about the uninsured who will not qualify for Medicaid?

Those not eligible for coverage under Medicaid, but who earn incomes between 100% and 400% of the FPL ($92,200 for a family of 4) will be eligible to buy subsidized insurance coverage through the Washington Healthplanfinder when open enrollment begins October 1, 2013.  This subsidized coverage, also referred to as a “Tax Credit,” will be available to 477,400 uninsured citizens statewide, 11,900 of whom live in Whatcom County.

How much the coverage is subsidized will vary based upon a variety of factors, but we encourage you to plan ahead.  Get an estimate by using the Health Reform Subsidy Calculator provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What should I do if I have questions?

Obviously, getting this number of people enrolled by January 1, 2014 is going to be logistically challenging, as many people will be seeking health insurance coverage for the first time.  Luckily, the Washington Exchange has requested proposals from organizations all across the state to build a community network of “In-Person Assisters” (IPA’s) to help residents find, compare, and enroll in coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

WAHA has submitted a proposal to aid in this process, serving as the lead IPA organization for Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and San Juan Counties.

Health care reform is changing the landscape of health care, and such large-scale system changes rarely (if ever) occur without some bumps along the way.  However, getting the uninsured in our state enrolled with some form of health coverage is a main component of WAHA’s mission, and important step towards improving the overall health and well-being of the communities in which we live.

Not having health coverage is a crippling barrier to those in need of health care, and it is one that costs our society so much more than money.  A healthy community is a community where its members have an opportunity to thrive, and though this process may present new challenges, here at WAHA we intend to help in every way we can, every step of the way.  Feel free to contact WAHA if you have any questions about accessing health care.