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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

September 26, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Getting ready to enroll homeless adults in expanded Medicaid

People who work directly with homeless adults in King County are gearing up to enroll as many of their clients as possible in the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which is one of the central components of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Starting Oct. 1, adults with income less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (which is $15,856 per year for an individual) will become eligible to enroll in Medicaid in Washington state.

In King County, more than 7,000 adults are homeless and uninsured and will qualify for Medicaid as a result of the eligibility expansion, says John Gilvar, program manager for high-risk populations planning and policy development at Seattle & King County Public Health.

The public health department has launched a large-scale effort to help people who are uninsured sign up for coverage once the open enrollment period begins. The effort includes targeted outreach to the most vulnerable populations.

For homeless adults, Medicaid coverage will make a huge difference to their health and quality of life, says Daniel Malone, director of housing programs at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle, which provides shelter, housing and other support services.

Medicaid coverage will mean “peace of mind and being able to establish regular health care so they can get it when they need it and not have to wait for an emergency,” Malone said.

Twenty-five DESC staff members recently completed a one-day training seminar to become certified as “in-person assisters” who can help people enroll in healthcare coverage, including Medicaid, through the state’s new health-insurance exchange.

One of those clients is Charles Hill, 28, who has been uninsured for the past three years. Hill hopes Medicaid coverage will improve his access to dental care. He had two teeth removed and is worried he will lose more to tooth decay because he cannot afford fillings or preventive care.

Tom Wallis, 52, is also a DESC client and has been uninsured for the past 14 years. Wallis is living with chronic back pain and cataracts in both eyes. He has had sporadic health care. But without insurance, he said, “it’s been a real rough ride.”

Charles Hill and Tom Wallis are DESC clients who will soon qualify for Medicaid coverage.

Charles Hill and Tom Wallis are DESC clients who will soon qualify for Medicaid coverage.

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