HEALTHCARE BLOSSOMS AT SEATTLE’S PIKE PLACE MARKET
#CoverMe Rally sends message to Olympia to fund Medicaid expansion covering more than 250,000 people, saving the state $225 million and adding 10,000 jobs
SEATTLE – More than tourists flocked to Pike Place Market Thursday. Dozens of everyday Washingtonians rallied outside the Pike Market Medical Clinic calling for full implementation of Medicaid expansion. “Cover Me,” they chanted, as nearly 100 umbrellas printed with “Cover Me” opened in unison creating a display that rivaled the floral bouquets in the Public Market.
“Just because I work in the service industry doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have health insurance,” said Cassie Cotham, 27, of Seattle, a volunteer with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She delayed seeking medical care because she was uninsured, but two years ago she became so ill she could no longer work. Cotham was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “Medicaid expansion would allow people like me to seek necessary medical care and not worry about balancing bills with going to the doctor.”
Cotham isn’t alone. More than 261,000 low-income Washington residents would be covered under Medicaid expansion, if the Legislature acts this session. The expansion would use Federal dollars to expand coverage to thousands of people, would save $225 million dollars and add 10,000 jobs statewide.
“Too often we see people desperately ill in the emergency rooms of our hospitals because they’ve postponed seeking treatment due to a lack of insurance coverage,” said Susan Tekola, a nurse with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We support Medicaid expansion because it makes sense to provide quality coverage for all Washington residents allowing them to enjoy more healthy, productive lives.”
People at the rally wrote messages on two umbrellas which will be delivered to Washington House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom urging the Legislature to act swiftly.
“We hope our political leaders hear the message that Washington’s bounty should include not just salmon, great coffee and wonderful produce,” said Lynne Treat, of Chehalis. She’s a volunteer with AARP of Washington. She spoke Thursday about the need for people between ages 50 to 64 to have coverage. “All Washingtonians deserve quality health care.”
A recent Elway poll found that two-thirds of state residents support Medicaid expansion. Studies show that people without health insurance have a greater risk of prolonged illnesses, disability and death.
For more information on how the Medicaid expansion would benefit Washingtonians age 50-64, check out AARP's fact sheet.
The rally was organized by the Healthy Washington Coalition, which represents a broad range of more than 70 organizations across the state.
Abbreviated comments from AARP Volunteer Lynne Treat:
"In my last 50’s, I began to suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis and bipolar disorder. By 2007, when I was 59 years old, my disabilities had become so severe that I was forced to quit my job as a nurse manager of a dialysis center.
For a few months I struggled to continue my employer based coverage through COBRA, but at $900 per month I soon found I could no longer afford it.
For nearly two years I was completely uninsured. I was in the hospital a lot that year, and it was painful to watch my retirement savings disappear. I tried to sign up for the Basic Health Plan but was put on a wait list. Eventually I qualified for Medicare as a result of my disability.
My experience leaves me acutely aware of how scary it is to be older, ill and uninsured. The Affordable Care Act will prevent many people from having to experience what I went through. Expanding Medicaid is critical. If this policy was in place when I needed it I would have gotten the coverage I needed when I needed it, instead of having to risk my life savings while my health condition got worse.
Expanding Medicaid makes good fiscal sense for the state of Washington and for people like me. COVER ME."