Get Help Enrolling in Health Insurance

Micah Keochanpheng is one of the more than 150 people on the UW Medicine team helping thousands of Washington state residents obtain insurance that will be available January 1, 2014 through the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m what’s called an ‘In-person Assister,’” says Keochanpheng. “My job is to know the ins and outs of the healthcare reform law; help patients find out if they qualify for insurance; and find a plan that’s best for them.” Signing up can be complicated and many people need help.

When patients come into the hospital, an In-Person Assister can have a one-on-one session with them. “We can come to their bedside with a tablet computer to show them the plans on the Washington Healthplanfinder,” says Keochanpheng. “Or, if they want to come in later, we can set up a time when they can sit down with a computer and a phone and have someone from the Healthplanfinder help center walk them through the process.”

How the new health insurance plans affect you
“If someone comes in to one of our clinics or to one of our four UW Medicine hospitals and doesn’t have insurance, the first thing we will do is let them know that, because of healthcare reform, they may now be able to get health insurance that is free or costs very little.”

For example, someone who makes less than 138% of the federal poverty level — about  $16,000 a year for an individual or $32,500 for a family of four — may be eligible for Medicaid. That’s free to the patient and their family, if they qualify.

“If they make more, they may still be able to obtain low-cost insurance from the new health insurance exchange. This is an online marketplace where they can buy insurance,” says Keochanpheng. “The cost of coverage can be very low, sometimes free, because the government will help pay for the premiums of many individuals and families, depending on their income.”

Benefits included in new plans
All the plans offered on the exchange have to meet minimum standards and provide coverage for 10 essential benefits, including:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (such as surgery)
  • Maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services (to cover the cost of lab tests)
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services (including dental and vision care)

Explore your health insurance options
How much you pay out-of-pocket depends on the plan you pick. “Some people say they don’t want to spend the money on health insurance or they’re just opposed to healthcare reform, but we encourage patients to at least give this a try,” says Keochanpheng. “Depending on their income and the plan they pick, the price may be much lower than they expected or it might even free.”

However, there are some people won’t qualify. “For example, undocumented immigrants cannot purchase insurance from the exchange. But we will try to find other coverage, if possible,” said Keochanpheng. “We’re all eager to get going and help patients sign up for this. The patients we’ve spoken with are excited to sign up, too.”

UW Medicine is here to help you understand new insurance plans. To learn more or to get assistance, call UW Medicine at 855-520-5151 or visit the UW Medicine Health Insurance Plans webpage.