Alison Mondi, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager for Lifelong, testifies before the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness in support of House Bill 1321 (Declaring the intent for all Washingtonians to have health care coverage by 2020), recounting the story of Luis, a U.S. permanent resident since 2011, and his struggle finding health care:
Chair Cody and Members of the Committee:
My name is Alison Mondi, I’m the Senior Policy & Advocacy Manager for Lifelong. Lifelong delivers food, housing, and health services to people living with chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, in 18 counties in Washington. We also have in-person assisters who help residents enroll in healthcare coverage through the Washington Healthplanfinder. We serve about 6,500 clients annually in our case management, care coordination, housing, food and nutrition, insurance premium assistance support, and prevention education programs.
I am here to testify in support of HB 1321, and to share the story of Luis, who tried to enroll in Apple Health with one of our in-person assisters. Luis is an immigrant from El Salvador, and has had permanent resident status since 2011. Luis has followed all the rules, and very much wants to become a U.S. citizen. He has worked several jobs, contributed to our economy, and is a taxpayer.
Through the end of 2014, Luis had health insurance through his employer; and then he got laid off. He is actively searching for another job, but in the meantime he is struggling. When he tried to enroll in Apple Health, he found that he has not been in the country long enough to be eligible despite having only unemployment income. He now has to purchase a plan on the Exchange. Even with subsidies, this is a hardship. The only plans with premiums low enough for him to consider purchasing have very high out-of-pocket costs, making it unlikely that he will actually be able to use his coverage. As Luis told me, “I hope I don’t get sick because I’ll be broke.”
Luis already needs reading glasses that he can’t afford, and is paying down previous medical expenses for chronic back pain.
As Luis put it, he isn’t interested in a free ride, he just needs some help through this period of unemployment. While his green card grants him many rights, when it comes to accessing healthcare, he feels he is being discriminated against.
Luis wanted me to share his story today not just for him, but for so many others who are finding themselves in similar situations, who are falling through the cracks and unable to realize the promise of the Affordable Care Act. Please vote HB 1321 out of committee, and move us closer to being a state that protects the health of all our residents.
Thank you for your time.