The Washington Health Benefit Exchange began Oct. 1, which also marked the day UW Medicine launched its enrollment assistance plan to help patients enroll in either newly expanded Medicaid, called Apple Health or in one of the plans through the Exchange.
The Exchange is part of the Affordable Care Act signed into law March 23, 2010, by President Obama. Under the new law, many previously uninsured people now qualify for health insurance. Medicaid also has expanded to accommodate more people. Coverage will begin Jan. 1 nationwide.
UW Medicine created a plan for guiding patients at Harborview Medical Center, the University of Washington Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics, Northwest Hospital and Valley Medical Center in signing up for health insurance. Financial counselors, social workers and other staff at each hospital are trained to help patients from all backgrounds learn what coverage they’re eligible for, work through the registration, and choose the plan that is best for them.
The Washington Healthplanfinder website was down, but that didn’t deter UW Medicine staff from helping enroll patients. Staff at Harborview helped patients begin enrollment over the phone. Harborview also has multiple mobile stations patients can visit. Also, staff from various departments are prepared to answer any questions patients have about expanded Medicaid or the Exchange.
“It’s helpful to have someone navigate you through the process,” said Elise Chayet, Harborview’s associate administrator of planning. “Even our security staff at Harborview are trained to help point people who have questions in the right direction.”
“We are very committed to helping our patients enroll. Over 200 patients have already been scheduled for appointments with our navigators,” said Debra Gussin, associate administrator of ambulatory and allied care services at Harborview.
The fact that the Healthplanfinder website was down didn’t keep patients from stopping by to enroll. Soavarin Jirasetpatana drove to Seattle from La Conner, Wash., to sign up for insurance on the day she became eligible.
Jirasetpatana said she first came to Harborview for surgery, and then for diabetes care.
“I always come to Harborview because I like the doctors here,” Jirasetpatana said through her Thai interpreter. She came prepared with a bag full of documents she thought she might need. Jodell Reed, a patient services specialist with Harborview Financial Counseling, guided Jirasetpatana through the process.
Rebecca Parker, a social worker at the Harborview Madison Clinic, spent months preparing to help patients navigate enrollment. The Madison Clinic provides medical care and social services for people living with HIV/AIDS. Many patients at the clinic now have access to health insurance for the first time, Parker said.
“People now have increased access, which also means increased choices,” Parker said. “We can’t wait to help people sign up.”
The UW Medicine web site has more info on signing up for expanded Medicaid or one of the health exchange insurance plans.