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King County Executive joins campaign to enroll 180,000 uninsured into affordable healthcare coverage

King County - Contributed art
King County
— image credit: Contributed art

King County Executive Dow Constantine met Thursday with members of the state’s Congressional delegation to advance his countywide effort to make the most of federal healthcare reform and enroll 180,000 uninsured King County residents into affordable healthcare coverage.

“We can leverage the regional leadership of the County to make the most of federal healthcare reform, and together we will create a ‘culture of coverage’ in King County,” said Constantine.

“King County is leading the way in implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the great benefit of its residents. I’m proud to represent the district that is going to be a trailblazer for universal coverage,” said Congressman Jim McDermott, Ranking Member on the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee.

In 2014, under the federal Affordable Care Act, 180,000 King County residents will become eligible for subsidized health insurance or Medicaid – and may not know it.

The Congressional delegation, the King County Council and Constantine agreed to work together to raise awareness of the newly available healthcare coverage and support King County residents in their enrollment.

As part of his 2013 State of the County Address last week, Constantine created a Leadership Circle from business, labor, education, healthcare and community organizations to lead outreach in their sectors, advise him on the enrollment initiative, and help shape outreach strategies. The Executive named three co-chairs for the Leadership Circle: From the health sector – Tom Gibbon, manager of the Community Specialty Clinic at Swedish Medical Center,

From the business sector – Maud Daudon, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and

From the non-profit sector – Gordon McHenry, Jr., Executive Director of the non-profit Solid Ground. Health plan enrollment begins October 1, 2013. Advised by the Leadership Circle, the County will lead efforts and support work of partners to:

Provide direct assistance to people who want to enroll in health coverage;

Support efforts of hospitals and other health care providers to enroll patients and clients;

Work with community-based organizations and local businesses in communicating this information and enrolling people who are uninsured; and

Work with community organizations to reach traditionally harder-to-reach communities such as homeless persons and people who do not read English well. Key provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act include:

Medicaid will be expanded by increasing the eligibility income level and allowing low-income childless adults to be eligible for the first time. Approximately 80,000 King County residents are expected to be newly eligible for Medicaid. A new health insurance marketplace called “Washington Healthplanfinder” will provide subsidies to help make purchasing health insurance more affordable to some residents. More than 100,000 King County residents may be eligible for these subsidies. Each plan in the Exchange will provide similar benefits. Costs will vary depending on co-payments and deductibles, which means that people can choose the plan that’s right for them.

Employers with more than 50 employees will be required to provide health insurance. Smaller employers will receive incentives to provide insurance. Healthcare insurance provides a route to good physical and mental health. Requirements for insurance providers under the Affordable Care Act emphasize preventive healthcare, like cancer screenings. Preventive care not only will help people live healthier and more productive lives, it will save millions of dollars in more complex and costly health care costs.

“King County’s health disparities are among the worst in the nation.The Affordable Care Act is an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health of all King County residents – particularly those who have lacked access to vital preventative care. I am thrilled the County is working hard to enroll these individuals and to create healthier communities,” said King County Councilmember and Board of Health Chair Joe McDermott.

Constantine said King County’s Equity and Social Justice team is also mobilizing every County agency with direct contact with the public to inform uninsured residents of the chance to enroll.

“Federal healthcare reform was hard-won, and presents an opportunity we must not miss,” said Constantine. “Thanks to this historic change, we can connect people to effective preventive care early, rather than expensive treatment later.”

 

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