The State of Washington’s “Apple Health for Kids” bus has been touring the state during August, promoting a new initiative to increase enrollment in children’s medical assistance programs offered by the Department of Social and Health Services.
Governor Chris Gregoire kicked off the tour on July 31 in Seattle, where the bus stopped in the Rainier Valley. Additional stops have been held across the state, including Bremerton, Everett and Ellensburg this week.
It’s all part of the state’s efforts to make sure all Washington children have access to health insurance by 2010.
Apple Health for Kids is an umbrella that wraps together all of the DSHS children’s medical coverage, streamlining the application process for parents and stakeholders, making it easier to apply and enroll children in health insurance. The Apple Health approach assures applicants that any child in a family with an income at or below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for DSHS coverage.
“By making covering kids a priority, we have been able to get 84,000 children health-care coverage. We still have a ways to go because there are approximately 75,000 children in the state uninsured despite the Legislature’s efforts to raise income eligibility limits and open up programs to the families that need them,” Gregoire said.
“Apple Health for Kids will help us reach out to those families and help them get coverage for their children.”
Local officials and children’s advocates are participating in the bus stops, along with representatives of the Community Services Offices in those communities. Workers on the bus are able to accept applications in between public appearances and to help families complete the necessary paperwork.
The Apple Health approach has been successful in several other states that, like Washington, are trying to make sure all children can get health insurance coverage. The key is to make the application process simple and direct, without getting bogged down in different program descriptions or different procedures.
Apple Health for Kids features a single application for children’s medical, and essentially has just one qualifying eligibility standard: Families’ incomes must fall below the 250 percent standard established by the Legislature.
That means that any child in a family whose income does not exceed 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($44,000 a year for a family of three) can qualify for children’s medical. Parents also can call on the help of local contractors in every Washington county.
The current statewide Apple Health for Kids drive will conclude with a special information day at the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field on September 10. But the agency will be gearing up for a second promotion late this year.
That’s because the Legislature has already decided the eligibility limits for Apple Health will increase again on January 1, 2009, this time to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (about $53,000 for a family of three).
In addition, the Legislature has ordered DSHS to develop a new medical program that will let the agency accept enrollments from families who make more than 300 percent of FPL, provided they pay the full cost of their coverage. Details of that program are still in the works.
The Apple Health Bus is scheduled to stop in Lakewood on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at the Hope Center, 10402 Kline Street SW.