By RayJaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
Beginning June 1, King County residents enrolled in Apple Health (Medicaid) may face the risk of losing their health insurance as COVID-19 emergency measures end. To maintain coverage, clients must confirm eligibility or explore alternative insurance options.
In April, over 30,000 Apple Health enrollees in King County received notifications about potential coverage loss after May 31. Renewal letters are sent monthly or on the enrollment anniversary. While some residents’ eligibility will be automatically determined, others must take action to confirm or enroll in other programs. Outreach efforts by Public Health officials will continue over the next 12 months to assist individuals in their renewal months.
According to Public Health Seattle-King County, clients can log in to Washington Healthplanfinder to check renewal status and eligibility. The online enrollment process can determine if clients remain eligible for Apple Health. Secondary insurance options, such as Cascade Care health plans costing less than $10 per month, are available for those deemed ineligible. Renewal notifications are typically sent through postcards, letters, and other messages from the Washington Health Care Authority and Washington Healthplanfinder, unless contact information has changed.
“We don’t want anyone to go without the care they need because the right paperwork didn’t get filed – so if you have Apple Health coverage, or know anyone who does, please take steps to confirm or re-enroll,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County.
During the pandemic, more than 100,000 King County residents were newly enrolled in Apple Health insurance coverage, which speaks to the potential impact this could have on those with health insurance in King County.
“Patients, providers, funders—we must all work together to get the word out about this important and quick way to keep people eligible for behavioral and physical healthcare,” said King County Department of Community and Human Services Director Leo Flor.
“Apple Health is an important part of responding to the growing behavioral health needs in the region and ensuring that people have health coverage especially when facing financial hardships,” added Flor. “By taking a couple simple steps to update your information and sharing awareness we can help our family and friends stay healthy.”
Public Health Seattle and King County along with King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) help serve a large percentage of Apple Health clients directly and indirectly. The King County Integrated Care Network (KCICN) in DCHS’ Behavioral Health and Recovery Division works directly with the community behavioral health providers to serve Medicaid patients, including outpatient behavioral health services, substance use disorder residential treatment, and mental health programs.
Efforts are underway to address potential challenges faced by the community, particularly among residents of color in the post-pandemic period. Daphne Pie, Access & Outreach Manager for Public Health Seattle King County, emphasizes the importance of spreading information and providing support to individuals who may lack internet access or face difficulties enrolling due to changed circumstances.
While not all Apple Health members need to re-enroll, Pie says that it is critical for people to keep their contact information updated to ensure proper notification.
“Imagine the number of people who moved and never got a renewal notice, some people still don’t have internet access or a computer to enroll,” says Pie. “So, for those people to find out they are not eligible, maybe they’ve been going to the doctor or have a prescription, mental health or drug and alcohol counseling and it just stops abruptly? That’s hard, that’s a big deal.”
“The best thing we can do is really talk and get the information out to people, says Pie. “In the City of Seattle, 98118 to be specific, has the highest number of people getting renewal notices, and so now we’re doing specific outreach in those zip codes, to say you’re coming up for renewal.”