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March 11, 2009 > Have You Recently Lost Health Insurance Coverage?

Have You Recently Lost Health Insurance Coverage?

Washington Hospital Expert Will Discuss Insurance and Health Care Options

If you're worried about your health-insurance coverage, you're not alone. According to a 2005 Alameda County Public Health Department study, more than 11.5 percent of the residents in Alameda County lacked health insurance and during these difficult times, that number has surely grown. For the thousands of people that have lost their jobs during this recession, they now face the prospect of having to find their own affordable health insurance.

Starting on Wednesday, March 18, Washington Hospital will conduct three free seminar classes that will provide helpful information about what you can do if you lose your health insurance benefits. The upcoming seminars will discuss the many health insurance and health care options that are available to you and your family members.

People who have been laid off and had employer-sponsored health insurance are usually eligible for up to 18 months of continued coverage under COBRA, the federal law more formally known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

What is COBRA?

COBRA requires continuation coverage to be offered to covered employees, their spouses, their former spouses, and their dependent children when group health coverage would otherwise be lost due to an employment lay off. Under COBRA, employers may require individuals who elect continuation coverage to pay the full cost of the coverage, plus a two percent administrative charge.

"The new stimulus bill that was recently passed by Congress included some good news for people receiving COBRA," says Linda Dawal, Health Insurance Information Service Coordinator. "The government is now going to subsidize 65 percent of COBRA premiums for up to nine months. This subsidy is limited to workers who were laid off between September 1, 2008 and the end of this year."

At the upcoming seminars, attendees will receive information on:
* How to obtain affordable healthcare coverage
* Government assistance programs
* What is needed to qualify for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

"HIPPA adds protections and makes it easier to switch jobs without fear of losing health coverage for a preexisting condition," says Dawal. "It's also very important for people to know that they don't have to wait until open-enrollment season to enroll in your spouse's health plan if your employer stops contributing to your insurance."

Besides private health insurance and joining a spouse's plan, another option for unemployed workers or their family members is Medi-Cal.

"People should also be aware of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which funds the Healthy Families program," adds Dawal. "Healthy Families offers health coverage to children who do not qualify for Medi-Cal, but whose parents cannot afford health care."

Learn More About Washington On Wheels Mobile Health Clinic

Since 2002, the Washington On Wheels (W.O.W.) Mobile Health Clinic has provided vital health care services to residents in the community that lack health insurance or do not have a regular physician.

"By bringing health care directly to where people live, Washington On Wheels treats thousands of patients each year by visiting local senior centers, community centers, schools, and churches every week," says Ruth Traylor, Washington Hospital's Director of Community Outreach. "The W.O.W. Mobile Health Clinic sees an average of more than 3,000 patients a year and demand for services has continued to grow steadily each year, especially as many struggle to find care without health insurance."

The dedicated staff of the mobile clinic offer physical exams, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, child and adult immunizations, flu shots and many other medical services. Washington On Wheels has also developed a successful diabetes education and screening program and works with local schools to make sure children receive all of their necessary vaccinations. Many of these services are provided to uninsured patients who qualify, free of charge.

"The goal of the upcoming seminars is to inform people about their health care coverage options," adds Traylor. "We want people to know that Washington Hospital cares about what's happening in our community and we want to connect people to all the resources that are available."

The Health Insurance Coverage Seminars will take place on these dates:

Wednesday, March 18
10 a.m. to Noon
2500 Mowry Avenue, (Washington West) Fremont
Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium, Room C

Tuesday, March 24
1 to 3 p.m.
2500 Mowry Avenue, (Washington West) Fremont
Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium, Room C

Wednesday, March 25
6 to 8 p.m.
2500 Mowry Avenue, (Washington West) Fremont
Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium, Room C

Call Washington Hospital's Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070 to register.

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