Michael Crandell suddenly found his family without health insurance last year. He'd been without insurance for a while, regardless that he has a disability, but his son and wife were covered through his wife's group plan at work.
Then the plan changed and became too expensive for the small family to afford. As in so many other cases, the Crandells' 16-year-old son was the big loser in the insurance game. He has an eye condition that requires regular checkups -- checkups that all of a sudden became impossible without insurance.
There are more than 60,000 adults and children in Spokane and Lincoln counties who don't have health insurance, and many are used to receiving their basic care (for ear infections, sore throats and such) at local emergency rooms. Uninsured children are at highest risk for incurring permanent health damage, mostly from lack of preventive care, since they only end up at the emergency room as an absolute last resort -- sometimes that's not until after the eardrum has burst.
After the Crandells realized they were without insurance, Michael contacted the insurance commissioner's office, who sent him on to the Health Improvement Partnership in Spokane. Here, he found out about Health for All.
"I couldn't believe it, it's just like premium health care, with eye benefits and dental benefits and everything," says Crandell. "We got on the plan so quickly, even though I thought we wouldn't qualify." A family of four can earn up to $42,000 a year and still be covered by Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and there are also programs available for teens, adults and pregnant women.
Seniors can also get help through the new A Washington Alliance to Reduce Prescription-Drug Spending (AWARDS), which allows Spokane and Lincoln county residents 55 or older to get discounted prescriptions.
"Generally, Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, leaving many seniors unable to afford their medication," says Ralph De Cristoforo, Health for All coordinator. It's estimated that as many as 275,000 seniors could benefit from the program.