by Elizabeth Turnbull
As COVID-19 cases have risen in the state, Public Health Seattle-King County and community organizations are stepping in to help. The groups are hosting a free event in Skyway on Dec. 5, which will provide assistance with health insurance enrollment, flu vaccines, COVID-19 testing, and ORCA Lift cards.
In a traditional year, organizers with Public Health Seattle-King County (PHSKC) meet with various King County residents in cafes and other public spaces to help make the open enrollment period more accessible. This year, the need for health insurance is even greater, but these avenues of communication are no longer open.
“When the pandemic rolled out, those strategies had to change,” says Daphne Pie, health services administrator at PHSKC. “What didn’t change — what got worse — was the fact that communities of color were still uninsured and communities of color were heavily affected by the pandemic.”
Recent statistics show there is an overall uninsured rate of roughly 7.9% across King County, according to PHSKC. This number rises to over 10% among Black residents, over 18% for Latino residents, and roughly 15% among Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.
These numbers are particularly significant in Skyway. The Skyway-West Hill area has the highest percentage of African American residents of any community in Washington State, and in 2017, 75% of residents were People of Color.
At the same time, Skyway is an unincorporated area, which means that it is not technically a part of any city, and many believe the County has historically failed to step in and provide sufficient resources to the area.
The event on Dec. 5, organized by PHSKC — in partnership with the King County Fire District 20 and organizations such as Cierra Sisters, Dee Dee Real Estate Group, and Catfish Corner Express — will provide a way for attendees to engage directly with public health employees to find the best affordable health insurance plans and access testing and other resources.
Health insurance enrollment assistance, flu vaccines, and ORCA Lift cards will be available at Temple Evangelistic Center in Skyway at 12600 Renton Avenue South. COVID-19 tests along with a free Catfish Corner Express lunch will be available across the street at the Fire Station. All resources will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and social distancing practices and personal protective equipment will be in use.
For individuals who are not comfortable attending the event in person, organizers encourage community members to still pursue an appointment to discuss health insurance enrollment options on the phone or via Skype.
Even beyond the pandemic, PHSKC’s Daphne Pie encourages people to find a healthcare plan to work toward a healthy future. With something affordable, people can pay for preventative health care such as mammograms or basic physicals in order to prevent further expenses and health conditions in the long run.
“We can get people enrolled into health insurance, they can go in and get preventative health care,” Pie said. “That’s going to help them to not only increase their life expectancy but keep them healthy — and that’s the important thing.”
For more information, call King County CHAP at (800) 756-5437 or visit www.kingcounty.gov/outreach.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist.
Featured image: Skyway residents gather at a COVID-19 pop-up resource center. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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