Health care deadline looms

Tri-City HeraldMarch 31, 2014 

Jessie Galusha tagged along Friday afternoon to a friend’s health insurance enrollment session at Community Action Connections in Pasco.

While she was there, the 19-year-old ended up with her own appointment to get help navigating the new state-based health insurance exchange. Galusha said she heard about Monday’s open enrollment deadline and worried about facing a penalty.

“I don’t want to get fined,” the Kennewick woman said as she waited to start the sign-up process.

The deadline, which applies to individuals and families buying private health insurance plans inside and outside the exchange, is Monday. Applications must be finished and payment submitted that day.

The deadline doesn’t apply to Medicaid enrollment. People who qualify for that program — called Apple Health in Washington — can sign up throughout the year. Medicaid is the state-federal insurance program for the low income.

As Monday’s enrollment deadline nears for private health plans, Community Action Connections, or CAC, and other local agencies that are offering enrollment help have seen a surge of people.

The CAC enrollment center will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. todaySat and also have extended hours Monday, staying open until 7 p.m.

Slots are filling up but some appointments still are available, said Wes Luckey of CAC, director of the Navigator In-Person Assister Program for Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

Those who want help at CAC todaySat can try for a walk-in appointment. Those wanting help Monday should call 545-4042 that morning to schedule an appointment. The agency is at 720 W. Court St.

Across the street from CAC, Tri-Cities Community Health also has seen a surge of people seeking help as the deadline nears.

“It’s been very busy and we’ve been able to help a lot of people with their applications,” said Terri Rohrman, who’s coordinating enrollment services.

The agency’s in-person assisters have been staying late and working weekends, she said.

At this point, she said, they’re booked up and will be “jumping through hoops and seeing what we can do” to help people who walk-in for help.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, most Americans must have health insurance this year or face a penalty.

Before open enrollment for private health plans started last October, officials estimated Washington had about 1 million uninsured, including about 52,700 in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

As of earlier this week, about 125,200 people in the state had completed enrollment in private health plans through the exchange.

Another 380,000 people had newly enrolled in Apple Health, including about 250,200 adults who became newly eligible under a federally funded expansion.

After Monday, the next open enrollment period for private health plans is in November.

There are exceptions, including for people who experience a “qualifying event” such as having a baby outside the standard enrollment time.

The exchange’s online marketplace, called Washington Healthplanfinder, is at www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

A customer support center is available at 1-855-WAFINDER. People also can seek advice and help from local insurance brokers and agents.

The exchange may give consideration on a case-by-case basis for people who missed Monday’s deadline because of a technical problem in the Washington Healthplanfinder system, according to a statement from the exchange released earlier this week.

For more information on the enrollment deadline, go to tinyurl.com/enrollmentFAQs.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service