What’s it like to be on the WithinReach AmeriCorps team?
In the first-ever WithinReach podcast, our AmeriCorps Lead Emma chats with current team member Jessica about a typical day on the job, what she’s learned during her year of service, and more!
AmeriCorps Week: Language is a source of empowerment!
There was one particular client story I walked away with from this experience that enhanced my perspective of language barriers. This client helped me see the other side of this complex barrier by showing me how much language is a source of empowerment.
Mariana** is a middle-aged Latin American woman who approached me toward the end of the event accompanied by a volunteer interpreter. She sat down and prefaced the conversation by saying that she wanted to try to communicate with me independently, but she also wanted the interpreter present in case there was any confusion. Mariana told me that she had recently become self-employed and was having difficulty navigating the exchange to choose a health plan for herself. The interaction was more drawn out than my usual interactions to confirm understanding on both ends; there were occasional tangents in Spanish until Mariana remembered that I didn’t understand. Since it was the end of the day, we weren’t able to complete the interaction with the purchase of her health plan so we exchanged information in order to complete it over the phone at another time.
In the following weeks we exchanged multiple phone calls so I could complete her application, explain the terminology surrounding insurance, guide her through the process of going to Staples so she could fax me her income verification, and finally purchase a plan.
In the months of my service I’ve had a wide range of final remarks from clients after finishing an interaction with them: “Finally,” or “glad that’s over,” as if the service was something I had withheld from them that I had finally granted. However, most of the final remarks are those of gratitude: “Thank you for making this easy for me,” and “thank you for being so kind.”
On my last phone call with Mariana she said, “Noelle, before you go I want to tell you something…” She thanked me first for assisting her with her application, but then went on to thank me for taking the time to understand her. She said that she had always been nervous about speaking English in public for fear of not being understood or taken seriously. She said she truly felt that our interactions had occurred in such a way where she understood what I was telling her and that I understood what she was trying to say.
Before my work with Mariana, I had seen my AmeriCorps service as a way to tear down the general systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing the resources they need. Now, I view my interactions with clients as opportunities to build bridges to resources despite these barriers. The value in our work comes from providing assistance that is personal and empathetic to the difficulties of navigating complicated systems.
**Client name has been changed to protect privacy.
WithinReach Starting New Health Insurance Enrollment Sites in Snohomish County
Health Insurance Enrollment Locations:
Mountlake Terrace Library
23300 58th Ave W
Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043
Thursdays, December 5th, 12th and 26th from 2:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Saturday, December 21st from 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM
6027 208th St. SW
Lynnwood, WA 98036
Fridays, December 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th
9:30 AM-1:30 PM
Bring the following items with you:
- Social security number (for all applicants)
- For household members that are not US citizens: Legal Permanent Resident Card or other immigration documentation (for LPRs we will need this AND the SSN)
- Date of birth (for all applicants)
- Tax filing status for the past year, current year and anticipated status for next year
- Information on your current health plan
- May need to bring an electronic form of payment (i.e. credit or debit card, pre-paid Visa, e-check)
Can’t make it to either location? Call 1-800-322-2588 or visit www.ParentHelp123.org
Five FAQ’s About Health Care Coverage in Washington
Written by WithinReach AmeriCorps member, Lisa Andersen
There’s been no shortage of questions during Washington’s first month of health insurance open enrollment. Here are some questions we’ve heard from lots of people who want to sign up for health insurance coverage:
1. This is confusing – where can I get help with my application?
There are lots of ways to get help! The Washington HealthPlanFinder has a list of assisters who can help you: click the “customer support” tab in the top right corner of the page, and then click “find a navigator” on the drop-down menu. You can search by zip code for a navigator in your area. I suggest calling or emailing the navigator before partnering with them, just to explain the basics of your application and ensure that the navigator will be able to help you in a timely manner. If you live in King County, you can also search for enrollment events near you where navigators will be present to help you with your application in person. A list of enrollment events in King County is available here: http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/personal/coverage/calendar.aspx.
At WithinReach we are also certified as “in-person assisters” by the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange, and regardless of your financial situation, we are here to guide you through this new system and help you understand and apply for health insurance. Visit our ParentHelp123 Benefit Finder or call the WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 today to get started.
2. When do I need to sign up by, so I don’t have to pay a penalty fee?
There are several dates floating around that can be confusing for people who want to sign up for health care. We are often asked if people will be penalized for not signing up for health coverage by January 1st. Everyone should know that you have a lot more time than that to sign up for coverage before you have to pay a penalty fee. Coverage starts on January 1st, 2014, but you don’t have to send in your application before March 31st, 2014, if you don’t want to. You won’t get coverage until you sign up, but you can sign up at any point between now and 31 March without having to pay a fee.
3. What if I submit my application for health care, and then my financial situation changes drastically? What if I get a raise, or lose my job? Will I have to pay the same premium for the rest of the year?
Not to worry: if something in your life changes drastically after you submit your application, you are allowed to change your application without a penalty. Simply log in to your HealthPlanFinder account and click on the “Report a Change in Income or Household” link. The HealthPlanFinder will be able to calculate your premiums based on your new situation, and will prompt you to scan documents to verify your new situation if needed.
4. Will Medicaid pay for visits to the dentist?
Dental coverage is undoubtedly a huge concern for many Washingtonians who haven’t seen the dentist in months or even years. If you are eligible for Medicaid, you WILL HAVE dental insurance starting 1 January 2014. Dental coverage is being re-instated for Medicaid patients, so Medicaid patients who have not previously been able to see the dentist will be able to this January.
5. What about dental care for people who don’t qualify for Medicaid? Do the health plans on the Health Benefit Exchange cover dentist visits for adults or kids?
Health insurance plans purchased through the exchange are NOT required to include dental coverage, so be sure to read the details of the plan you want to sign up for to find out if dental coverage is offered or not. If you have kids under the age of 19, you will be required to have pediatric dental coverage for them, even if the health insurance plan you bought through the exchange does not offer it. That means you will have to purchase a pediatric dental plan in addition to your health plan.
Big Changes Lead to Big Rewards
At WithinReach, we are on the forefront of health care reform and are excited about the future of health insurance enrollment in Washington State. We believe that with investments in people and technology and respectful engagement with folks, health insurance for all can be a reality.
The launch of the Washington HealthPlanFinder website represents big changes for our state, and for how all of us access coverage. It has also meant changes here at WithinReach. We have grown our team and increased our capacity to reach the thousands of Washingtonians who are newly eligible for health insurance. We welcomed 14 new people to WithinReach in the last two months and our total staff team count is over 50. This is more than double the size of our team from two years ago. Our office is literally busting at the seams as we shift space to accommodate new staff and move teams together. We have broadened our work into additional communities and expanded our skills—all while maintaining the personal and friendly culture that make this a great place to work!
Of course with all this change and growth, come some growing pains. We experienced some of those growing pains first hand, with the technical glitches of the HealthPlanFinder website earlier this week. Health exchange websites around the country experienced many of the same glitches and delays due to the large numbers of people trying to apply online at the same time. Despite the technical issues, our team of In-Person Assisters was out in the community talking to Washingtonians at 14 sites in King and Snohomish counties. Our team talked to over 1,000 people about health insurance at these sites, and have also received close to 100 inquires for health and food assistance through ParentHelp123 this week alone.
Because of the challenges with the Washington HealthPlanFinder tool, we focused our outreach on education about what to expect next and creating appointments with individuals to sign them up for health insurance within the next few weeks. Despite some of the technology glitches, we have already seen the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act on our families. Last evening one of our outreach and enrollment specialists, Benito, enrolled a single mother and her daughter in health insurance plans through HealthPlanFinder. The mother called in with the intent of getting her daughter covered. She was skeptical about finding affordable health insurance for herself, and anxious about what ‘Obamacare’ meant for her family. Benito explained that there were likely affordable options for her as well as her daughter, and encouraged her to explore those options. After entering her application in HealthPlanFinder Benito learned that her daughter was eligible for Free Apple Health for Kids effective October 1, 2013 and that she was eligible for a tax subsidy for herself for coverage effective January 1, 2014. She was excited that her daughter was covered, but was still apprehensive about what kind of coverage she might be “forced to purchase”. Benito found a SILVER level plan that was free after a $559 tax credit.
Stories like this one make our day, and fuel our desire to do more. This mother came to us looking for health insurance for her daughter and she finished the call with free health insurance for both herself and her daughter. We are ready for action and encouraged by the numbers of people we have already been able to help in the first week of open enrollment. We will continue to provide in-person outreach, schedule appointments, take calls and provide the education and outreach that is so crucial to getting families successfully enrolled in affordable health care.