Before new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rolled out in October of 2013, Washington CAN! mobilized to make sure the state accepted federal funds to cover low-income adults through Medicaid. Now, after two years of enrollment through the ACA, nearly 552,000 people are now covered by Medicaid, also known as Apple Health, and despite initial hiccups and stumbles with the online system our state had the fourth highest drop in the number of uninsured. Most people agree Washington’s efforts to close the coverage gap were incredibly successful.
Despite this evidence, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R), was determined to paint a different picture. She asked her Facebook followers to share negative stories to bash the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, instead, her post received an overwhelming response from nearly 10,000 fierce defenders of the ACA. Many of their comments indicated that either they or family and friends benefit from the new health care options under the ACA, including Apple Health. It was heartening to see so many Washingtonians stand up for health care coverage and for their friends and neighbors.
At Washington CAN!, we know the thousands of positive comments on Representative McMorris Rodgers’ Facebook post represent the true benefit of covering more people. In our own outreach we heard similar things from people across our state. We heard from Sam, a University of Washington graduate student who told us that Apple Health has given her peace of mind as she finishes her degree and starts her job hunt. She was afraid of getting sick and having to choose between treating her illness and paying tuition. Now, she’s considering starting a family thanks to her Apple Health coverage.
We heard from Kristi Brown Wokoma, chef and owner of That Brown Girl Cooks, a small business. She and her husband were still paying the debt for a hospital stay to remove fibroids when another serious condition surfaced. They were covered by Medicaid because Washington accepted federal funds to cover more people through the program. Now they can take care of her medical challenges without losing ground financially. Wokoma is grateful her family is now covered.
As we see and hear about the importance of insurance coverage for people in our state, we know there is more work to do to make sure everyone has access to care. We organize with the idea that our members are a powerful representation of every consumer and encourage them to advocate for the best coverage possible.
At Washington CAN!, we believe the next step for Washington is universal single-payer health care. The Health Care is a Human Right movement, a two-year, grassroots campaign to give all Washington State residents access to quality affordable health care is underway. Two bills were introduced in the 2015 legislature and, because they heard from Washington CAN! members in their districts, 45 legislators were co-sponsors, an impressive number for a first-time bill. The campaign, built with a robust coalition, is off to a great start. So yes, Washington State has indeed benefitted from increased access to Medicaid and will continue to do so, but it’s only the beginning.
-- Rosalind Brazel
Washington Community Action Network