(Public News Service) OLYMPIA, Wash. - It isn't every day that state lawmakers get a thank you for something they've done, but a rally today in Olympia aims to do just that.
It's being called Washington Has You Covered, and is a nod to the state's decision to expand Medicaid coverage, known as the Washington Apple Health program.
At more than 150 community health centers around the state, where care is given no matter a person's ability to pay, it's expected to make it easier to refer patients who need a specialist or service the clinic can't offer.
Molly Firth, director of public policy with the Community Health Network of Washington, says that's worth celebrating.
"We're just going to make a point that the train to better health care is on track," she says. "We need to get more people on board, and we need to let them choose their destination, to have control of their health. And that's all this really is, is a chance to celebrate and say, 'Thank you,' and really have people be able to hear some great stories."
Firth adds members of the Healthy Washington Coalition that organized today's rally still want the Legislature to find some funding to better market the Apple Health expansion around the state - and to make technical changes to allow participants to select their own plan, instead of being assigned to one of five plans.
In the last four months, more than 130,000 people have signed up for the expanded Medicaid coverage - including Shelly Hughes, a certified nurse's aide in Bellingham.
She notes the irony of being in the health care field without health insurance, but says her family couldn't afford the policy offered by the nursing home where she works.
"If I had tried to put my husband or our son on it, I would have been basically working to pay for health insurance," she explains. "Now, we qualified for the Medicaid expansion and I have health insurance for the first time in years."
Gov. Jay Inslee will speak at the rally this morning at the State Capitol, along with several people who, like Hughes, have just qualified for health insurance.