BELLINGHAM - The Washington state insurance commissioner praised a Bellingham-based nonprofit for its work in helping to sign up a large number of Whatcom County's uninsured for health care coverage under Obamacare.
Mike Kreidler commended the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement's effort during a talk about health care reform on Monday, Aug. 5, before the Rotary Club of Bellingham.
"The (Affordable Care) act itself is far from perfect but, at the same time, it's brought some very much-needed reform to the system," said Kreidler, who has long been an advocate for federal and state health care reform.
Whatcom Alliance was one of the organizations chosen statewide to help people enroll in a health plan or coverage through expanded Medicaid, which also is called Apple Health.
An additional 370,000 Washington state residents were able to get access to medical care because of health-care reform, according to Kreidler.
And that includes in Whatcom County.
Before the reform, which included the state's expansion of Medicaid to provide coverage to more people, about 14 percent of Whatcom County residents, or 29,000 people, were uninsured.
That is now down to about 5 percent, according to Kreidler.
"That's much better than the national numbers," he said, adding that also was a credit to the community.
He also talked about the benefits of Obamacare including no lifetime limits on health care, a ban on insurance companies dropping coverage because someone gets sick, allowing children to be covered on their parents' plans until age 26, and more "robust" plans with a guarantee of drug and maternity coverage.
He said reform also is helping to hold down rate increases, noting insurance companies have filed requests with his office for an average 8 percent increase for health plans.
Before reform, double-digit rate increases were not uncommon, he said.
Health care reform didn't do away with employer-based health care coverage in this country, according to Kreidler.
But it did end workers' need to stick with a job because it provided health insurance they couldn't otherwise afford.
"What we got rid of with health care reform was the infamous job lock," Kreidler said.