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Washington Selects Community Groups To Promote Health Exchange

About a million Washington residents are now without health insurance. Come October, the state hopes to get many of them enrolled in a plan. That’s when Washington’s Health Exchange is scheduled to launch. But signing people up for health insurance is not as easy as it sounds. There’s still a lot of misinformation about Obama’s Affordable Care Act.Just ask Rudy Vasquez. “In talking with a lot of individuals in the community, a lot of them did believe that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act did stop,” he said. “So they’re kind of surprised right now with, ‘Oh wait a minute, we’re moving forward with this?’”

Vasquez is with SeaMar Community Health Centers. He says clearing up the confusion surrounding the Affordable Care Act is going to be a big challenge. The law’s goal is to reduce the number of uninsured people in the country. Vasquez hopes once people understand that Washington is moving forward with the law, they’ll want to take part.

One of the key pieces of the Affordable Care Act is coming in October. That’s when the state’s Health Exchange goes live. People who now don’t have medical coverage will be able to go online and shop for health insurance. In the meantime, there’s a lot of marketing and outreach to be done. State officials are counting on organizations all over the state to get the word out.  

Vasquez says so far, people he’s talked to want to learn more. Just recently he was talking to his haircutter about the exchange. “All of a sudden she stopped cutting my hair, I noticed I stopped hearing the clippers,” he said. “And I looked through the mirror, and I saw her face and she goes, "Oh my god, does that mean I’m going to be eligible?' I said yes.”

The haircutter told Vasquez she was on Medicaid when she was pregnant. A few months after her baby was born, she was no longer eligible, and has been without medical coverage since. She asked Vasquez to come talk to the rest of her staff about the exchange as well. Vasquez says these are the populations they’re going to reach out to. “A lot of these folks that are working, low income folks — they’ve just not had the opportunity to have health coverage.”

The state hopes this word-of-mouth approach will especially help those who are less likely to use a website, or those who speak limited English.  Washington has received $6 million in federal grants for outreach efforts.  People will get a chance to enroll starting in October for coverage that takes effect in January, 2014.

Year started with KUOW: 1994