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ORCA LIFT can get you where you need to go!

Do you take the bus? Then the ORCA LIFT program could be a great resource for you! If you qualify for the program, you could be paying just $1.50 to ride! The extra exciting news is that ORCA LIFT is expanding to Sound Transit buses on March 1st–there has never been a better time to enroll. ORCA LIFT is already making a real impact on bus riders. A few months ago, I helped a woman named Maria enroll in the program. Maria takes the bus into Seattle every day for her full-time job, so she purchases an unlimited monthly pass. Buying the pass was already a challenge for her, but when the price increased to $99 in March of 2015, it became even more of a financial strain. Now, with her new ORCA LIFT card, Maria pays only $54 to take the bus as much as she needs to, which adds up to real savings.
Affordable access to public transportation is an issue that is coming up in cities nationwide. Seattle is at the forefront of the movement to increase transit access through discounted passes. When transportation is affordable, the whole city becomes accessible; people can afford to get to a job interview outside of their neighborhood, or simply go to work every day like Maria. Having a reliable form of transportation is invaluable, and we are proud to participate in the ORCA LIFT effort that is leading the way and setting a positive example for other cities.

So now you’re probably wondering: “how can I sign up?” The ORCA LIFT application is done in person, and you actually receive your activated card on the spot! Another cool thing is that once you have your ORCA LIFT card, it is good for two years—no need to reapply yearly like other benefits programs.

How does it work?

You get a card that looks and works just like a regular reloadable ORCA card, except every time you use it, you’re charged a discounted rate.

How do I know if I qualify?

Eligibility for the ORCA LIFT program is based on income. If you are already enrolled in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Basic Food (Food Stamps), you automatically qualify for the program and we can easily confirm your eligibility online or you can bring your award letter when we complete an enrollment.  If you are not already enrolled in one of the above programs, check to see if you are income-eligible (and get lots of other information here).

Where can I sign up?

Enrollments for ORCA LIFT must be done in person. Luckily, WithinReach will be at the Northgate Transit Center on Tuesday, March 15th, 3:30-5:30 (with coffee!) to sign you up.

Can’t make it on March 15th? We will also be back at the Northgate Transit Center, from 3:30-5:30 on these Tuesdays: March 1st, April 5th and 19th, and May 3rd and 17th. See you there!

There even more dates and locations where you can sign up! Call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or King County Metro Customer Service at 206-553-3000 to find your closest enrollment location.

What should I bring?

  • Income verification
  • Identification– Driver’s license (any state or county, photo ID from any state, county, or country, Armed services ID with photo, ID from any foreign consulate, Passport from any country, school photo ID, Tribal ID, US certificate of citizenship, naturalization (signature, photo) any other form of government issued ID issued by a government agency of any country
  • If you do not have a government-issued photo ID, call Metro Customer Service or check King County Metro’s website for a list of acceptable documents.

Other questions? Call the Family Health hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or go to parenthelp123.org/ORCA to find out more.

Tags: King County Metro Transit   Northgate Transit Center   ORCA LIFT   Seattle   Sound Transit   

Beyond Open Enrollment: Qualifying Life Events

Updated & Written by Emma Lieuwen, AmeriCorps Program Lead 4/25/2017

You may have heard that the Open Enrollment Period for health insurance closed on January 31st. You might be wondering if you can still get health insurance. The answer is yes, but only if you have a Qualifying Life Event before the next Open Enrollment Period. We’re here to break it down for you and help you figure out your next steps.

What counts as a Qualifying Life Event?

Adding a Dependent

  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Adoption
  • Foster Care
  • Receipt of a court order (including child support)

Loss of Other Health Coverage

  • Expiration of a non-calendar year health insurance policy (even if you have the option to renew)
  • Loss of pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage
  • Beginning or ending service in AmeriCorps, VISTA, or NCCC
  • Loss of Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI)
  • Loss of Washington Apple Health (Medicaid)
  • Loss of a Qualified Health Plan due to permanent move

Did you know?

You can enroll in a plan up to 60 days before or after the loss of other coverage. But, be sure to wait until the month your other coverage will end so you don’t have a month of overlapping coverage.

Permanent Move

If you move and become a resident of Washington or move to a new county in Washington that results in new plan options.

Did you know?

A permanent move to Washington State is only a qualifying event if you had minimum essential coverage for at least one day within the 60 days before you moved?

Change in Citizenship or Lawful Presence Status

If you become a citizen, national, or lawfully present individual, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Did you know?

Those with tribal membership (American Indian or Alaska Native), may enroll in a QHP or change from one QHP to another once a month (and access other benefits)!

Release from Jail/Prison

If you have at least one individual on an application that changes status from incarcerated to no longer incarcerated you may be able to open a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for coverage.

Special Enrollment Periods Only Available to Existing Customers

If you already have an account on WAHealthPlanFinder and are enrolled in a plan you can report the following events to open up a Special Enrollment Period to change your plan. You cannot get a Special Enrollment Period with the following events if you are a first time applicant.

Losing a Dependent or Dependent Status


  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation

Filed or Reconciled Taxes

If you received tax credits in the previous year, you must have correctly filed a tax return even if you do not usually have to file taxes. If you do not file a tax return and reconcile the tax credit you received, you will lose the opportunity to receive a tax credit until the IRS has confirmed that you have filed your federal taxes.

Change in Income

If your income changes, you could lose or gain eligibility for (or change the amount of) health insurance premium tax credits (help paying your monthly premium).

If any of these happen, be sure to report the changes on Washington Healthplanfinder. You can find more information about Qualifying Life Events here.

Did you know?

If your income is below a certain amount, you may qualify for Washington Apple Health. If this is the case, you don’t have to wait for an Open Enrollment Period– you can sign up any time!

Don’t know where to start or what you qualify for? Give the Family Health Hotline a call at (800) 322-2588!

Tags: Family Health Hotline   health insurance   Health insurance enrollment   qualifying life event   Special Enrollment Period   Washington Apple Health   Washington HealthPlanFinder   Washington state   

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