He’s the graduate student you know, struggling by on student loans. He has no medical benefits. She’s the single mother you’re related to, working two part-time jobs but receiving no medical benefits. It’s the family next door, beset by employment problems and lacking any medical benefits.
The “working poor” are everywhere. They do not receive any medical benefits through school or their jobs and can’t afford to buy health insurance out-of-pocket.
The uninsured are at risk of serious health problems because they often put off medical care until a crisis hits. Then they cost everyone money: Hospitals absorb their unpaid bills and pass them along in higher fees to those who do have insurance, and those premiums, in turn, rise to help pay for the uninsured.
But you can help the uninsured in your lives. Pass on the telephone number of the Basic Health Plan, which provides low-cost, state-subsidized health insurance for Washington state residents. It covers doctor visits, hospital care, routine checkups and prescription drugs. In January, organ transplants, mental health visits and treatment for alcohol and drug addiction also will be covered.
Those who enroll pay their own monthly premiums, based on income and family size. But the premiums are affordable; the lowest-income folks will pay only about $10 a month. Others will pay more. For instance, a family of four with a gross monthly income of $2,300 will pay between $52 and $73 per month.
This plan has been around since 1989 as a way to reach the estimated 500,000 Washington state residents without health care benefits. However, only 80,000 people are enrolled. The plan was not well-publicized.
The reasons for the program’s slow start don’t matter. With a big push from state Republican Sen. John Moyer of Spokane, a physician-turned-legislator, the Basic Health Plan is enjoying a public awareness campaign now. If you have any trouble getting information or access to the plan, be sure to let his office know.
It will take everyone concerned to get the word out. That means hospital emergency workers who meet the uninsured every day. That means receptionists who answer the phones in doctors offices. That means friends, co-workers, fellow students and relatives must take time to spread this message to the uninsured: There is a health plan. It is affordable. Call this number - (800) 826-2444 - now.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board