The enrollment period for health coverage through the Washington State Health Benefits Exchange ended on March 31st. With that came an end to the months of back-to-back appointments for the staff at International Community Health Services (ICHS). Since October of 2013, a team of certified in-person assisters have been helping patients and other community members apply for coverage through the Exchange.
“The ICHS clinics and administrative areas were continually packed throughout the open enrollment period with patients and their families looking to ICHS for help in navigating Washington Healthplanfinder,” said Abbie Zahler, ICHS Health Advocacy Manager.
“We also conducted outreach and enrollment sessions outside of the clinics to make sure that community members had access to enrollment assistance in locations that were convenient and accessible.”
When the Washington Healthplanfinder website launched last October, it experienced numerous crashes due to the high volume of users causing long delays for many ICHS clients. Despite this challenge, ICHS was able to help complete over 5,800 enrollments by the March 31st deadline, far exceeding its goal for the year.
“Almost 6,000 people now have stable, quality health care through ICHS’s efforts. We couldn’t have done it without our dedicated and caring staff. More than 50 staff members took on various roles in the process from actual enrollment assistance, to checking patients in, providing community education, and scheduling the thousands of appointments during open enrollment. Their grace under pressure and empathetic assistance made all of this possible,” added Abbie.
ICHS will continue to provide affordable health services to uninsured patients who missed the March 31st deadline. Additionally, ICHS staff will continue to provide enrollment assistance throughout the year to patients who qualify for Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) or experience a qualifying life changing event. Washington residents who missed this year’s open enrollment period can apply for insurance during the next open enrollment period of November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015 for coverage that will take effect in 2015.