On Monday, May 13, the Seattle City Council adopted a resolution enlisting City departments to develop outreach strategies to educate and inform the public about new healthcare coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). ACA is the national health insurance legislation approved by Congress in 2010, which goes into full effect in 2014. The Affordable Care Act requires that most members of the public enroll for healthcare coverage by January 2014. Departments will coordinate with the efforts of community partners to enroll all newly eligible residents in the new healthcare coverage options.
The City of Seattle has an extraordinary opportunity to increase the health of our residents by working diligently on enrolling folks in the expanded Medicaid program if they are eligible and in the health care insurance exchange if their incomes are too high for Medicaid. There are an estimated 26,000 Seattle residents who will be eligible for fully paid health care under the Medicaid expansion. Another approximately 30,000 Seattle residents will be eligible for partially subsidized coverage under the insurance exchange program. This is the most significant advance in health care since everyone over 65 years old received health care coverage with the enactment of Medicare in 1965.
However, many people do not know about the new health care law or understand how it will operate. Those who can now qualify for Medicaid will have to sign up and go through a process to verify their eligibility and enter the system. Those who can get partial subsidies must sign up for the health care exchange, find out how much subsidy they qualify for, and then select the insurance coverage that best matches their needs and their ability to pay. The State is funding trained resource people to help with this, but people will have to know about this opportunity and then sign up. That is where the City outreach comes into play.
Seattle’s outreach plan will include publicity efforts as well as person-to-person support for individuals, particularly communities who need more intensive help with the application processes and accessing health care services. Our goal is to ensure that everyone who can be covered actually accesses the appropriate information and services.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to help Seattle residents receive the care they need. It is also an opportunity to lower health care costs by decreasing reliance on high-cost medical services such as emergency room visits. And everyone in the city will benefit when we have a healthier, more productive population that is better able to contribute to and participate in our economy and civic life.
It’s a win-win-win for Seattle, but we have to participate to ensure that we realize all of the benefits. We are committing ourselves to helping people thrive by supporting the implementation of the ACA.