by: Natasha Chen Updated:
SEATTLE - About 90 volunteers knocked on doors and handed out flyers Friday, trying to inform the public about opportunities to sign up for health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act.
Starting October 1, people can sign up online for free or low-cost insurance. Those who are signed up can start receiving benefits January 1.
Penny Lara, with the King County Public Health Department, said people are eligible if they are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a Social Security number.
Because many low-income people do not have access to the Internet, the department is getting help from 23 agencies to station certified workers in various places like libraries, food banks and community centers, to help with the online sign-up process.
Lara said, “This is the first time that many people will have health insurance. I don't know about you, but it is confusing to me, to navigate the system. There will be many words that people have not heard before.”
She's referring to words like "premium," "deductible," or "co-pay."
But before anyone gets to that point, they first have to understand the opportunity in front of them.
Volunteer Alyssa Gonzales said, “A lot of them are interested, and a lot of them are kind of confused.”
Gonzales said that she wanted to help, because she would want to know this information if she didn’t have insurance.
Language was a barrier. But even those who speak English are sometimes confused, and complain of lack of information.
“I figured since they were still arguing about it in Washington, that it wasn't happening yet,” said Al Frazier, an uninsured resident who is also unemployed. “It makes it difficult to even understand what's going on, when information is not really getting to the masses.”
Frazier thought he would have to pay $30 a month, but with his income level, he may not have to pay anything at all.
In King County, 210,000 people are uninsured, 180,000 of whom are eligible for free or subsidized insurance.
Volunteers said that giving out flyers with a phone number to call is one step in the direction of providing the right resources.
“We are being part of history. Things are changing for the better, and we are part of it,” Lara said.