Executive Constantine’s all-hands-on-deck approach to helping residents sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has contributed to a dramatic decrease in the uninsured rate in King County, dropping to the lowest levels on record.
Uninsured rates in King County, Wash.
Uninsured rate for King County, 2008-2015. Source: U.S. Census Bureau.
Thanks in part to an innovative outreach effort led by Executive Dow Constantine, the number of working-age adults in King County without health insurance has dramatically fallen since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, to the lowest level ever recorded.
The uninsured rate among adults between the ages of 18 to 64 has dropped by more than half – from 16 percent to 7.7 percent – since the launch of new health insurance options. The uninsured rate for children in King County has also reached an historic low of 1.6 percent.
“King County is one of the best Affordable Care Act success stories in the country,” said Executive Constantine. “President Obama and our hardworking members of Congress transformed the healthcare system, creating an opportunity to dramatically improve the health and well-being of our region. The unique partnerships we built with businesses, labor, healthcare providers and nonprofits continue to help residents sign up for insurance today.”
The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows gains across all population groups in King County. Even among young adults – sometimes referred to as “the young invincibles” – the rate has plummeted from 23 percent to 9 percent. The uninsured rate of African Americans dropped by nearly two-thirds, from 27 percent to 10 percent.
A creative, all-hands-on-deck approach to outreach
Executive Constantine launched an all-hands-on-deck approach to help King County residents sign up for health insurance after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. In addition to having all county departments help spread the word about enrollment, Public Health created a network of enrollment Navigators who made the online system accessible for thousands of residents by going to libraries, food banks, hospitals and other public places.
This past year, for example, Public Health’s outreach network worked directly with taxi drivers and Hispanic and Vietnamese small business owners to help boost enrollment in communities that have the highest uninsured rates.
Public Health now uses the same effective network to help residents sign up for King County Metro’s ORCA LIFT, the nation’s leading reduced-fare program for passengers who earn a lower income.
“We’ve made helping people get enrolled in health insurance plans a high priority because it significantly improves the overall health outcomes in our region – particularly among people who have traditionally not had access to health care,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Documenting the benefits of having health insurance
The lower uninsured rate translates into more than 115,000 people who are newly insured in King County through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange – known as Washington Healthplanfinder – and the state’s expansion of Medicaid in 2013. The decline in the uninsured rate also reflects younger adults – ages 19 to 25 – who are able to remain on their parents’ insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
A recent study by researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health quantified the positive impact that having health insurance has on someone’s quality of life. The researchers found that adults who earn lower incomes and have health insurance have greater access to preventative care, better manage their chronic diseases and are less likely to seek treatment in an emergency room.
How to sign up for affordable insurance
Residents can enroll at Washington Healthplanfinder from Nov. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2017.
Choose from eight insurance carriers in King County, offering dozens of plans.
Get assistance across the county. Find a listing at Coverage is Here or call King County’s assistance hotline: 800-756-5437
Washington Apple Health – providing free insurance to those at the lowest range of the income spectrum – is open year-round for enrollment.
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Coverage is Here: Sign up for affordable health insurance