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The Invincibles

Students in the UW SPH helped with ACA implementation in Washington State.

By Carly Miller

“Young Invincibles”—young adults who think they don’t need health insurance coverage—are often described as a barrier to ACA implementation. But students in the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health are proof that their generation is also key to the success of the ACA in Washington. 

“We were overwhelmed the first day,” says Eric Ofori, recounting his volunteering with the south King County nonprofit Global to Local on October 1, 2013, the first day of ACA open enrollment. “The enrollment website was down, and we were passing out paper applications.” Ofori, an undergraduate senior and public health major in the UW School of Public Health, worked with a dozen other UW students as in-person assisters (IPAs) to help people sign up for health insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. These students conducted outreach in the culturally diverse communities of South Seattle, SeaTac, and Tukwila. (For more on IPAs at Global to Local, read Jose Carmona’s story on page 20.)

Jeremy Snider, Megan Shepherd-Banigan, Ian Randall

From left: Jeremy Snider, Megan Shepherd-Banigan, Ian Randall

While Ofori enrolls the uninsured, Jeremy Snider has a different focus. Snider, a Health Services PhD student in the UW School of Public Health, works with fellow students Megan Shepherd-Banigan and Ian Randall under the mentorship of Professor Doug Conrad on the Quality Assurance and Evaluation Framework. This group is developing methods to assess the impact of ACA implementation on the health of King County, Washington. “I have been working [in quality assurance research] on the global and national level with these issues for several years,” Snider says, “but this is a unique opportunity to learn about how local health authorities interact with the health system.” Working alongside colleagues from Public Health - Seattle & King County to improve local health care has taught Snider the value of collaborative work. “We’ve formed a unique research relationship between UW and Public Health - Seattle & King County where we’re focusing on both ‘real-time’ monitoring/quality assurance questions and longer-term research/evaluation questions.” (Read more about Professor Conrad on page 18.)

Inderpal Virk

Inderpal Virk

Inderpal Virk is a graduate student in the UW School of Public Health’s executive MPH program. As part of his studies, Virk is required to complete a practicum project that addresses a public health issue in the community. A native of Canada, Virk understands the importance and value of universal health care. For a practicum in the fall of 2013, he worked directly with Public Health - Seattle & King County, focusing on the enrollment of the Young Invincibles—18- to 34-year-olds—the demographic least likely to have health insurance. His project included many outreach events, including a highly publicized ACA forum at UW during the fall quarter. “We knew we had to have a presence on campus,” Virk says.

He also worked with advertising agencies to promote the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. These promotional activities included ads on public buses, a mobile enrollment site at UW’s Red Square, and a “Go Health Yourself” concert at the Seattle nightclub, Chop Suey.

Alex Ajeto

Alex Ajeto

The second year of medical school is known for its academic rigor, leaving students little time for extracurricular activities or community service. But Alex Ajeto refused to let his class load keep him from actively promoting the ACA. Like Ofori, Ajeto has been involved as an IPA, but his main focus is on a different population: medical students. Ajeto worked tirelessly to educate his classmates and other students about the ACA and its importance.

With colleagues, he has worked with Health Equity Circle, a UW interdisciplinary organization aimed at advocating for health equity. When asked about his motivation for the effort, Ajeto responds quickly, “it is an income inequality issue.”

Ajeto plans to continue his involvement with health policy through medical school and beyond. He also understands the difficulty in reaching the Young Invincibles. “We must simplify the process and get them to the website,” he says.

 

Author

Carly Miller is an occupational and preventive medicine resident at UW and a graduate student in the UW School of Public Health.

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