Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Tremendous Progress toward Covering All Kids

Adam 07/09/14

All kids deserve a chance to thrive. Thanks to the smart implementation of the Affordable Care Act here in Washington, we’re putting health care within reach of more children—so they can be part of a healthy future for all. 

Since the opening of our State’s new Health Insurance Marketplace, HealthPlanFinder, in October, more than 94,000 Washington children have been newly enrolled in Apple Health for Kids. An additional 5,000 children were connected with private insurance. 

What does that mean? Thanks to Apple Health for Kids and the Affordable Care Act, Washington has made tremendous progress toward the goal of universal coverage.

The number of children covered since October would fill 3,365 classrooms: classrooms full of children who are more likely to stay healthy and ready to learn. A new study indicates that affordable coverage like Apple Health for Kids boosts educational success: increasing eligibility by 10 percent boosted high-school graduation rates by 5 percent, and college completion by a little more than 3 percent. 

One critical component of health reform, the In-Person Assister network, has helped thousands of Washington families understand the new insurance enrollment system and select the best plan for them.

Paty Chanthazong, of Valley Cities Counseling in South King County, is an outreach and enrollment specialist who has made great progress as an in-person assister. Working with families with very little proficiency in English, she says her main technique is to “simplify things.”

“Instead of asking the question as it’s written out in the official book, I ask, ‘Do you have a Green Card? What kind of document do you use?’”

“Take the time to simplify the questions, and things go easy.”

Chanthazong began enrolling families in coverage toward the end of January. When she enrolls one elder in a community, word spreads. Soon, others come to her for assistance. So far, she has connected 667 people, many of Russian, Somali, Laotian and Filipino background, with health coverage. Most of her clients are families of color; that’s important because their children face some of the biggest obstacles to health coverage and care.

The work of Chanthazong and others across the state matters as much today as it did last October; all families need the essential ingredients of a healthy life.

We can ensure that this valuable network of in-person assisters has the resources necessary to continue to reach families where they are. The Health Benefit Exchange board must support continued strong funding for this invaluable program. The board needs to hear from communities that in-person assisters are necessary to maintain the momentum of the last seven months.

The Affordable Care Act’s winning strategies to get more people of all ages enrolled in coverage need to continue. In coming months we will be asking lawmakers to sustain in-person assisters as they do vital work to connect children with the coverage they need to be healthy.