State picks Bellingham nonprofit to help uninsured sign up for health insurance

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 5, 2013 

The estimated 25,202 Whatcom County residents who have no health insurance will get help enrolling in a health plan beginning Oct. 1 as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

That help will come from the nonprofit Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, which was one of 10 lead organizations chosen statewide to provide consumer assistance by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

WAHA will receive about $907,000 to serve five counties - Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, Island and Snohomish - that have about 117,800 uninsured people. The Bellingham-based organization will build and oversee a network to provide impartial information to consumers in person, online and on the phone, officials said.

"This means that consumers will be receiving a coordinated effort to help them find, compare and enroll in a health plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder," said Elya Moore, deputy director for WAHA.

Washington Healthplanfinder will be the new online marketplace for health insurance coverage.

About 121/2 percent of Whatcom County residents don't have health insurance, according to numbers provided by the state.

Consumers can begin enrolling Oct. 1 for coverage that will start Jan. 1.

"We're anticipating a huge wave of people," Moore said.

Most people must have health insurance - and can receive financial help to get it - by Jan. 1, 2014, or they will be fined.

Until enrollment begins, consumers should go online to whatcomalliance.org/mail-list and sign up for WAHA's newsletter.

That will allow them to receive notification on enrollment opportunities and locations.

For people who don't have Internet access, Moore said WAHA is planning a big outreach effort closer to October to let people know where to enroll.

"We want to make this as easy as possible," she said.


LEARN MORE

Click here to read a flier on what consumers should know about federal health care reform (PDF).

Click here to read an informational graphic on the issue (PDF).

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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