Joselito Lopez, 43, suffered two heart attacks within two weeks in 2007.
While going through double bypass surgery, the Mountlake Terrace resident lost his job at Microsoft along with his health insurance. Unemployed and considered high risk, Lopez was drowning in $90,000 of debt.
“I went through bankruptcy and moved back home with my parents. I didn’t have any options and went a whole year without any insurance,” Lopez said.
Today, insured, employed and healthy, Lopez is one of the winners under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. And many more may be just like Lopez, according to local advocates.
“For many lower- and moderate-income people insurance is going to be a lot more affordable, and when about a million residents are uninsured in Washington that is important information,” said Teresa Clark of Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!).
As of Oct. 1, open enrollment for health care plans that go into effect Jan. 1 has begun. By logging onto a federal- or state-run website, anyone can plug in his or her age, gender, income, location and smoking status, and find a health care plan.
Members from Washington CAN!, Latino Leadership Institute and the Verdant Health Commission are launching a joint outreach campaign to inform the public about the new online application that is open until March 1. The three groups gathered at the Verdant Health Commission office in Lynnwood on Tuesday, Oct.1, to discuss ways to help Snohomish County residents without insurance understand their options.
Though the application is entirely online, the groups decided the best way to communicate the Affordable Care Act’s promises and get people signed up involves personal one-on-one contact.
“We will be knocking on doors trying to get the word out,” Clark said. “We’re willing to do that follow up work and we know that it takes multiple steps to get people to understand how the law actually impacts them.”
Lack of clarity is a common complaint about the health reform bill.
George Kosovich, the director of programs and community investments at Verdant Health Commission, said that one of the main misconceptions about the health care law is that people who benefit are not working.
A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about half of the public surveyed across the nation said they did not have enough information about the ACA to understand how it will impact them and their families.
Also, the poll shows that Americans with lower incomes, who are more likely to be eligible for coverage, are less likely to report receiving information about the law across a wide variety of sources.
Clark said, “We still have a lot of work to do to enroll everyone who is eligible and continue improving the law, but by Jan.1, thousands more people in our state will finally have peace of mind knowing they’ll be able to get the health care they need.”
— Story, photo and graphics by Marika Price, using data from the Department of Health and Human Services.