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Kent's large number of uninsured health care residents become target for enrollment

Kent's become a target by Public Health - Seattle & King County to get people to sign up for affordable health insurance because an estimated 16,869 people in the city are uninsured.

"About one in four people in Kent are uninsured," said Erika Nuerenberg, spokeswoman for Public Health - Seattle & King County, in an Oct. 1 pitch to the Kent City Council as part of a goal to enroll 180,000 newly eligible King County residents in Medicaid and the Health Benefit Exchange. "We are going to target Kent because it is one of the highest uninsured."

King County residents can sign up now and will gain access starting Jan. 1 to affordable health coverage through the expansion of the Medicaid program and Washington Healthplanfinder, the state's Health Benefit Exchange. Each are part of the new federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"We hope to get Kent below 10 percent," Nuerenberg said about making a huge dent in the city's 24 percent uninsured rate based on census data.

A certain number of people will choose to pay the $95 fine for the first year rather than buying insurance, Nuerenberg said. She also said undocumented immigrants are not eligible for the program.

There are an estimated 80,000 county residents who make less than $16,000 per year ($32,499 for a family of four) to be eligible for the new free or low cost insurance. Another 100,000 people who make less than $46,000 per year ($94,200 for a family of four) are eligible for tax credits and subsidized premiums through the Health Benefit Exchange.

"There's a lot of people who are eligible," Nurenberg said. "There's over 6,000 in Kent now eligible for Medicaid and 8,000 for subsidies."

Individuals and families who are U.S. citizens or lawful residents are eligible to purchase coverage in the Exchange beginning in 2014 if they are not eligible for a federal program such as Medicare, Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, and do not have an offer of affordable coverage through their employer or a family member's employer. Employer-sponsored plans will be considered unaffordable if the employee contribution for employee-only coverage is more than 9.5 percent of household income.

King County received about $1.6 million in federal grants to help spread the word to get people to sign up for insurance. Six plans are available that vary by how much individuals pay and the deductible amount.

"I'm pretty impressed with how proactive King County is to get the word out," Councilwoman Jamie Perry said at the council workshop.

King County has several partners in Kent where people can sign up for health insurance during certain dates and times, including HealthPoint Kent, the UW Neighborhood Kent Clinic, the Kent Public Health Center, Kent Library, Multi-Service Center, Kent Youth and Family Services and Kent Lutheran Church.

County officials plan a large sign-up event from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at Kent Memorial Park, 850 N. Central Ave.

King County Executive Dow Constantine released the following statement about the county's efforts to reach residents with health insurance.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort,” Constantine said. “We’ve mobilized every County agency with direct contact with the public to help us reach the ambitious goal of full enrollment, and through our partner organizations we’ve trained more than 500 In-Person Assisters, fluent in 34 languages, who will enroll the uninsured at 200 events and at hundreds of public places like libraries and community centers.”

For more information go to WAhealthplanfinder.org and kingcounty.gov/coverage.

Kent health insurance enrollment events

• HealthPoint Kent, 403 E. Meeker St.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through October

• Kent Public Health Center, 13111 SE 274th St.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through October

• Kent Multi-Service Center, 515 W. Harrison St.

1-4 p.m. Oct. 24 and Oct. 28

• Kent Youth and Family Services, 232 Second Ave. S.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through October

• Kent Lutheran Church, 336 Second Ave. S.

3:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and Oct. 28

• Kent Library, 212 Second Ave. N.

1-5 p.m. Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Dec. 7, Dec. 14

6-8 p.m. Nov. 4.

• Kent Memorial Park, 850 N. Central Ave.

1-5 p.m. Nov. 9

 

 

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