EDITORIAL: APA outreach on the Affordable Care Act is just beginning

After years of politicking, lawsuits, and hand-wringing, the Affordable Care Act has arrived. All Americans will need health care coverage by Jan. 1. This week, the Washington Healthplanfinder and the state insurance exchange marketplace opened. Now state residents can enroll in a health plan and find out if they are eligible for financial help if they cannot afford the plan.

It now will be required for every American to have health insurance, either through their workplace or purchased separately through the state insurance exchange marketplace. Under the law, those who do not have health insurance will pay a penalty of $95 per year for adults, $47.50 per child and up to $285 per family or one percent of family income.

The focus of recent news coverage of the act has been on the online Washington Healthplanfinder, which guides web users on what options are available to them. The emphasis on online access may put some in the APA population — particularly immigrants and refugees — at risk because of a lack of access to computers and the Internet and language barriers.

Many people eligible for Medicaid in King County primarily speak APA languages, including Punjabi, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese, according to King County Public Health.

That’s why the recent outreach efforts to Asian/Pacific Islander communities to educate them on their options and the law’s requirements is so vital.

On Sept. 20, Gov. Jay Inslee reached out to leaders, groups, and organizations providing services in the local APA community to explore improving communications and outreach to Washington’s APA populations.

On Sept. 25, the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee and the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, took the lead in organizing a forum that hosted Seattle and King County Public Health, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Washington Health Care Authority, who were also on hand to answer questions from the public about the new act.

We applaud these outreach efforts to the APA community. Local groups also need to make sure these efforts include the general public, so individuals can learn about their rights and responsibilities under the law. We also encourage federal, state and local government agencies to make literature about the new act available in many languages and to take the effort to educate everyone on the law. Multilingual outreach efforts on the Affordable Care Act should not be a mere afterthought to the public education process, but an essential part of making this law fair for everyone who lives here. (end)

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