Here in Washington and across the country, the open enrollment period for health coverage on state-based exchanges has begun. This opportunity matters to kids and families in search of affordable health care coverage, and it matters in particular for a subset of Washington’s Pacific Islander’s who, until 2018, had no source of affordable health coverage.
State lawmakers created COFA Islander Health Care in 2018. The intent was simple: Ensure that more Pacific Islander Washingtonians could get the health care they need to care for their families, go to work, and contribute to their communities. When the adults in their lives are able to get health care, children do better.
The COFA Islander Health Care program currently helps nearly 1,700 income-eligible COFA migrants afford health care. These Washington residents hail from the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia: three nations in the Western Pacific with diplomatic agreements allowing their citizens to live, work, and study in the United States. These agreements are known as Compacts of Free Association (COFA).
Health care coverage can save lives by ensuring access to timely care. These communities have been uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the decades without health care coverage is a significant factor to the inequities they experience. Now more than ever, we must prioritize equitable access to health care.
COFA Health Care:
-makes life-saving care accessible;
-addresses racial inequities in health care access;
-ensures that every member of a child’s family gets necessary health care.
As Lorna reminds us, everyone deserves health care. While open enrollment continues until January 15, 2021, it’s worth remembering that we need to keep our state’s health care coverage system strong. Anything else would devastate our communities, exacerbate racial and health inequities, and endanger public health when it’s needed most.
For more information on obtaining health care coverage during the open enrollment period, visit the Washington HealthPlanFinder.