Since it began in 2013, Washington HealthPlanFinder has helped insure 1.5 million people in the state of Washington, which equates to 1 out of every 5, according to the website. The website also quoted a recent survey which showed the uninsured rate drop from 16.8 percent to 6.4 percent in the state of Washington, the fifth highest in the nation. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, a HealthPlanFinder representative set up a booth in the Bellevue College cafeteria, answering questions about health insurance options that are available for students at BC. In short, health insurance functions the same as car insurance — by paying for it, people have some amount of help with their medical bills depending on their plan.
Penny Lara, a Project Manager for the King County Public Health Department, stated that health is a basic human right. One of the biggest benefits of health insurance is that there are illnesses with no visible symptoms which often can be identified by a doctor through lab tests or asking some questions. “Once someone has medical insurance,” Lara explained, “they can set up a physical medical appointment where a doctor can identify problems early on before they even need to take medication.” She also said that two major benefits to health insurance is peace of mind and an improved quality of life.
College students are generally at the peak of their health, according to Lara, but it is still very important that they get health insurance. In a personal anecdote, Lara talked about being young and thinking she was strong and healthy and able to do anything she wanted with no repercussions. During that time she broke multiple bones in her arm and leg and she said that this was when she realized that she needed medical insurance to cover the expenses. According to her it is even more important to have health insurance if someone lives without their parents or on their own. She finished by saying that even if someone is young they still need physicals and immunizations which medical insurance would help cover.
Lara explained that the college chose to put across the message that a lack of health insurance would translate into penalties. She confirmed the statement but expressed a desire to provide students with preventative services. During this time on Jan. 12, Lara counted ten students that did not even know they qualified for medical insurance. Another one of her concerns was that students might not know where they can apply for health insurance.
As it stands most people only have until Jan. 31 to participate in open enrollment. Afterwards, most people might be forced to wait until the following year to apply. However, people who have limited income can apply at any time throughout the year. In fact, the Public Health Insider website claims that 80 percent of health insurance customers qualify for discounts.
Lara will return to the college Jan. 20. For information regarding health insurance call King county health services toll free at 1-800-756-5437.