Ready? Set? Renew!

Today is the DayIf you currently have a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) through the New York State of Health (NYSOH), New York’s official health insurance Marketplace, you can renew your coverage for 2018 starting TODAY.

Retuning consumers must renew their coverage between November 16, 2017 and December 15, 2017 to avoid a gap in coverage.

You can renew your coverage on your own by visiting the NYSOH website. If you or someone you know needs help renewing coverage, Navigators are available to assist! Please call 888.614.5400 for in-person enrollment assistance in your area.

Red AlertYesterday afternoon, the Senate released a tax bill that would eliminate the penalty for not having health insurance established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that repealing the individual mandate would cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance by 2027, including 4 million in the first year alone.

Without the individual mandate, younger, healthier people would lack incentive to purchase health insurance and would exit the individual market. This means that the people that remain in the individual market will be older, in poorer health, and require more expensive care, which will increase premiums. The CBO estimates that premiums would increase by about 10 percent in most years between 2018 and 2027, which could make it more difficult for people to afford health insurance in the future.

Congress could vote on this bill as early as tomorrow. Please call 202.224.3121 and tell your member of Congress to vote no on this bill that could hurt millions of people’s access to health care. You can choose to be connected to your Senator or your Representative.

Information on New York Targets:

  • Representatives Zeldin, King, Donovan, and Stefanik have all said that they will vote “NO.” Please thank them and encourage them to stand strong!
  • Representatives Faso, Tenney, and Katko are leaning toward voting “NO.” Please help push them to a definitive “NO” vote.
  • Representatives Collins and Reed are supporting the bill.

open enrollment graphicGuest post by Mark Hannay, Director, Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign. New York’s fifth open enrollment period began this past Wednesday, November 1. This is the period during which people can renew or sign up for private health insurance coverage through the Marketplace.  Here in New York, the New York State of Health (NYSOH) marketplace will be open for business through January 31, 2018.

To help everyone get ready for open enrollment, members of HCFANY partnered again this year with the Healthcare Education Project to organize a series of ACA Outreach and Enrollment Summits across the State, which took place last month. These summits bring together enrollment assistors, health plan representatives, advocates, hospital outreach staff, community health centers, and non-profit community-based organizations. Summits were held in Buffalo, Albany, New York City, and Long Island.

Each of the summits began with a presentation from NYSOH, which discussed the gains New York has made so far under the ACA and their outreach and promotional plans for open enrollment.  One of the key messages they stressed during their remarks was that, in spite of the federal debate over the future of the ACA, nothing has changed, the ACA remains the law of the land, and NYSOH will be open for business as usual.

NYSOH also emphasized that affordable coverage is available and that many New Yorkers may qualify for financial assistance. They identified geographic areas where the uninsured rate remains above the state average which will need special focus and described the online resources available for stakeholders to use in their own outreach and enrollment.

For the first time this year, the closing section of each summit focused on key policy issues and advocacy strategies concerning the “unfinished business” and looming threats to various national health care programs. These issues include potential drastic funding cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA, the need to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and federally-qualified community health centers, attacks on funding for family planning, and restoring needed funding to the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program that helps pay for care for the uninsured, particularly at public hospital systems across our State.

NYSOH Presentation 2017 Enrollment Summits

megaphoneGuest post by Ann Danforth, Progressive States Advocacy and Policy Manager at Raising Women’s Voices-NY.

In their latest attack on women’s health, the Trump Administration released two new rules that weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s birth control benefit. The interim final rules (see here and here), which went into effect immediately, allow employers to deny their employees birth control coverage because of an employer’s moral objection to birth control. In addition, the rules expand the scope of employers who can cite religious objections for denying their employees birth control coverage. Luckily, here in New York, many (but not all) women will be protected by new state regulations that require insurers to cover birth control with no cost sharing.

The ACA guarantees coverage for a set of women’s preventive health care services, which through federal regulations issued by the Obama administration, include birth control. As a result, employers are required to cover all methods of FDA-approved birth control for employees with no cost sharing. Under the Obama administration, houses of worship were exempt from the requirement to cover birth control for their employees. An accommodation ensured that women who work for a narrowly-defined group of employers that object to providing coverage on religious grounds still had access to seamless birth control coverage.

The Trump Administration’s recent actions expand the exemption to include all employers, universities, and insurance companies, and make the accommodation optional. Now, instead of an accommodation that protects employers’ religious views and women’s access to vital health care, these new rules simply allow almost any employer to refuse to provide birth control coverage to their employees for either moral or religious objections to contraception.

While not all employers will choose to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, these rules create sweeping new exemptions that put women’s coverage at risk, and roll back important gains in women’s health. Thanks to the ACA, 62.4 million women have insurance coverage for their birth control with no out-of-pocket costs. The percentage of women with employer sponsored insurance who were paying out-of-pocket expenses for birth control pills fell from 1 out of every 4 women before passage of the ACA to just 1 out of every 28 women in 2014. And in 2013 alone, women saved $1.4 billion in co-pays and deductibles on birth control pills.

Here in New York, an estimated 3,855,517 women between the ages of 18 and 64 have preventive services coverage, including birth control, with zero cost sharing thanks to the ACA. Fortunately, many New York women will still have guaranteed access to contraception with no cost sharing because of recently finalized New York State regulations. These regulations require coverage without co-pays for one type of contraception in each of the 18 FDA-approved categories (the federal ACA standard), and allow for the dispensing of 12 months of contraception after an initial three-month allotment (June 28, 2017 Register: Page 13, Notice of Adoption). Unfortunately, however, our state requirements do not reach “self-funded” insurance plans, which are regulated by the federal government, and not subject to the New York regulations. Because as many as 40 percent of New Yorkers have these self-funded plans, there are a number of New York women who will not be protected. The Trump Administration’s new rules have put us in a place where a woman’s zip code, employer, or income determine her ability to access the contraception she needs.

While our colleagues at the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have already filed lawsuits challenging the new rules, we must call on employers to stand up for their employees and publicly declare they will continue to provide contraceptive coverage. In addition, all of us who are employees can demand that our employers affirm they will continue providing contraceptive coverage. We will also continue to support legislation here in New York – the proposed Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act – that would place even stronger contraceptive coverage requirements into state law.