Speaking of Women's Rights: Free or low-cost health insurance coverage? It's time to sign up!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Free or low-cost health insurance coverage? It's time to sign up!

Heather has insurance now! Do you?

By Roberta Riley

20 minutes flat. That's how long it took Heather to sign up for free medical and dental insurance. I know because I timed her. And let me tell you, it was a joy to see her doubts and fear melt into such a happy surprise.

"I was expecting a lot of red tape and fine print," she admitted.  Now that she’s enrolled, come January, she can finally get her teeth cleaned and update her tetanus shot. (Scissors cuts are common in her line of work).

Heather, 28, is one of the women I introduced readers to recently. She is working hard to get her new business, Canary Salon, up and running on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Last time she cut my hair, I began to realize why she had such a hard time believing she could ever afford health insurance.  Tears welled up in her eyes when she told me about a bill for a routine lab test, sent to an old address months after she’d moved, that nearly ruined her credit rating.
When she’d looked into insurance earlier, she discovered high monthly premiums, pricier than a doctor visit, plus high deductibles and pages of fine print.

No wonder she harbored serious doubts about her odds of getting free or low-cost coverage under the new law.

Free or low-cost coverage, you ask? Hard as it is to believe, it’s true. Depending on your income, you, like Heather, may qualify for qualify for free or low-cost coverage.
How did this happen?
Governor Inslee and the Washington Legislature accepted federal money offered by the Affordable Care Act to transform what was once Medicaid into a much bigger, broader program than we've ever had. Apple Health (for kids and now adults as well) is our state's way of ensuring that care is efficiently purchased, which makes it less costly for everyone. 
Heather's tax dollars will be working for her. But she is not the only one: roughly 300,000 low-income workers in our state qualify for no cost medical and dental coverage. 

They simply need to sign up. Now.

In addition, many more families will qualify for reduced cost health coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Roughly half of all uninsured Americans are expected to qualify for help with their premiums. About half of young people between 18 and 35 are likely to be eligible for coverage for $50 a month or less.  You could get reduced cost coverage if you make up to $94,200 a year (for a family of four).

The new law requires all health plans to cover the care you need, even if you have a pre-existing condition. "Now, under the Affordable Care Act, all health plans must provide at least a minimum level of meaningfulcoverage," explains Mike Kreidler, Washington state Insurance Commissioner.

All you need to do is sign up. Now.

To begin, pour a strong cup of coffee and gather:

  • Last year’s tax return and this month’s income information;
  • Your bank account information; and
  • Birth dates and social security numbers of everyone in your household.
Next, if you live in Washington State go to the official website:
Or call 1-855-WAFINDER (855-923-4633)

Don’t miss the deadline to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Roberta Riley currently works for Northwest Health Law Advocates, a non-profit dedicated to health care for all. In her former role as Legal Counsel for Planned Parenthood, Ms. Riley won a groundbreaking federal court decision requiring health plan coverage of prescription contraception. She has also served as a consumer advocate at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and was appointed to the Washington State Health Reform Realization Panel by the Hon. Mike Kreidler. In recognition of her achievements on behalf of women, she was given a 2001 Ms. Magazine Women the Year Award.