OLYMPIA - Washington residents without health insurance will be able to sign up for a health plan, beginning today. People have the option of using the Washington Health Plan Finder website, contacting a toll-free number and talking to people at local organizations trained to assist them in signing up.
People can enroll on the exchange beginning Oct. 1; federal law will require all Americans to have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014. Enrollment will be open through March 31, 2014 so people can familiarize themselves with the process, Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for Washington Health Care, said.
Moses Lake Community Health Center, Quincy Community Health Center and Columbia Basin Health Centers in Othello will have "in-person navigators" to help people examine their options and with the sign-up process, said a press release from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Columbia Basin Health also has offices in Connell and Mattawa, Roger Borden, administrator for the clinic's program, said.
Nine people at Moses Lake Community Health will be trained to help people in signing up, Chief Executive Officer Sheila Chilson said. Borden said Columbia Basin Health has five people on staff with the training.
People don't need to be patients at the clinic to take advantage of the service, Chilson said.
The online outlet is Washington Health Plan Finder, www.healthplanfinder.org. People also can talk with facilitators on the phone, 1-855-923-4633.
State officials expect a lot of activity the first couple weeks, said Trina Stout, spokesperson for Washington Health Plan Finder, and are confident that they can handle the rush.
People who sign up by Dec. 23 could get coverage by the Jan. 1 deadline, Frey said. But "it might take time to sort through your options," so for people who want to review plans, or have more complex circumstances, "it might be better to start (the application process) sooner rather than later," she said.
Washington Health Plan Finder administrators will sponsor a bus tour around the state to help people sign up for health insurance, Frey said. The bus tour starts Oct. 16; the itinerary will be announced.