Candidates Recycle Old Myths About the ACA

By Bob Cohen, Esq., Policy Director, Citizen Action of New York and Public Policy and Education Fund

 

Well, there they go again. Presidential candidates Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have now outlined their plans to replace the ACA, repeating tired myths like the law has increased costs for consumers. While both candidate statements omit critical details, it’s clear that either proposal would be a disaster for consumers. And their rhetoric can deter consumers from exploring the new options for affordable coverage that are available.

candidateBoth proposals would repeal a law that has enrolled over two million New Yorkers, lowered costs by an average of 50% in the individual market, set higher standards for health plan quality, and reduced the chances that consumers will be stuck with massive medical bills. According to the Roosevelt Institute’s Richard Kirsch, this would have grave impacts at the national level. The country would “return to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage or charge higher premiums because of a pre-existing condition, charge women more for health insurance than men, and stop paying claims when people have high-cost illnesses.”

Both plans would force millions of people off Medicaid immediately and take away coverage from millions of young people who are on their parents’ plans, according to the Kirsch post. And the Walker plan would allow health insurance to be sold across state lines, threatening a “race to the bottom” in which states compete with each other to attract insurers by loosening consumer protections. New Yorkers could lose the hard-won consumer protections that our State has put in place over many years.

While attacks on the ACA have been less frequent in the past few months, the Walker and Rubio initiatives and continuing proposals in Congress to repeal or cut back the ACA make it clear that the law is not politically out of the woods yet. As New York State begins its third Open Enrollment period, health advocates need to practice how to explain the many benefits of the ACA in New York, and how to debunk the myths that continue to circulate.   Thankfully, as the latest Kaiser tracking poll data indicates, the law is now finally supported by a clear majority of Americans, as more and more get covered or know someone who did.

By Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition; Laura F. Redman, Director, Health Justice Program, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; and Sarika Saxena, Staff Attorney, Health Justice Program, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

 

The release of the 2015 Open Enrollment report from the New York State of Health (NYSOH) demonstrates that NYSOH made important progress in reaching New York’s culturally diverse immigrant communities this year. The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) supported a number of strategies for effective outreach, such as a Spanish-language version of the web portal and outreach materials in 17 different additional languages. HCFANY is excited to see that New York has made concrete progress toward making the Marketplace friendly and accessible for all immigrant communities.

Other important accomplishments in the report include:

  • 13% of enrollees selected Spanish as their primary language (as opposed to 10% in 2014)
  • 25% of Marketplace enrollees describe themselves as Hispanic, a population that is disproportionately likely to be uninsured (an increase from 21% in 2014)
  • Help from the NYSOH call center was given in 92 different languages, suggesting that information on coverage is reaching a wide array of diverse communities.
  • Availability of an interactive calendar of events, navigation tools, and new “How to” videos in English and Spanish.

These successes point to the Affordable Care Act’s approach of working with in-person assistors, NYSOH Navigators and certified application counselors. Many Navigators and CACs work at strong culturally competent and language proficient immigrant-serving organizations, offering enrollment assistance in a total of 48 different languages.

The report also highlights important areas for improvement for open enrollment 2016 and beyond. Enrollment for French, French Creole, Italian, Korean, and Russian speakers does not appear to have increased. Consumers who speak languages other than English and Spanish would benefit from a calendar, navigation tools, and videos in other languages. immigrant health 2And improved data on racial and ethnic minority and language groups will be essential to help inform targeted and innovative outreach and engagement strategies to make sure all immigrant communities can benefit fully from the ACA. While it is evident that information may be getting to diverse communities, information on enrollment outcomes is not available. Unfortunately, 31% of enrollees chose not to report their race, and 12% chose not to report their ethnicity, which represents a large gap in our knowledge. HCFANY members like the NYIC and NYLPI will continue to work with NYSOH to identify strategies to improve data collection and to educate health consumers about why sharing racial and ethnic identity information is safe and important.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about the NYSOH 2015 Open Enrollment Report.

By Bob Cohen, Esq., Policy Director of Citizen Action of New York and the Public Policy and Education Fund

 

As we discussed in the first blog post of this series, 2.1 million New Yorkers have enrolled in health coverage through the NY State of Health Marketplace (NYSOH) as of the end of the marketplace’s second open enrollment period. NYSOH’s second annual open enrollment report shows one of the key reasons why: the strong program the State has established to provide one-on-one in-person assistance to consumers and small businesses to compare and enroll in health plans.

Two-thirds (67%) of total marketplace enrollees used in-person assistors – Navigators, certified application counselors (CACs) and brokers – in the marketplace’s second year, a significant increase from the first year, when 49% got one-on-one help. All three kinds of in-person assistors are trained and certified by the State. Navigator agencies are funded by NYSOH.

The State’s investment in Navigators and other in-person assistors has really paid off. In the second year, New York made significant progress in enrolling hard-to-reach populations – exactly the New Yorkers that Navigators and CACs are intended to reach. Eighty-nine percent of consumers in the second year didn’t have insurance at the time they enrolled, versus 81% in the first year. Thirteen percent said their preferred language was Spanish, versus 10% in the first year. The state’s Navigators know the communities they serve and are trusted by community members to provide accurate and unbiased information. When you’ve never had health insurance before, or you have limited English proficiency, you’re much more likely to prefer getting help from a community group in your neighborhood than to call a toll-free number. Navigators work evenings and weekends, which is particularly attractive for those with more than one job, irregular work hours, or child care obligations. 2015 Infographics - Where

The in-person assistance program also expanded in 2015: there were 11,388 trained assistors (Navigators, CACs, and brokers) as of the end of February of 2015, versus 8,960 in 2014, according to the state report. In-person assistance will continue to be a key to the success of NYSOH in 2016, as more and more people hear from their friends, co-workers, relatives and neighbors about the value of assistors in navigating the complexities of health insurance enrollment.

 

This is the second in a series of blog posts about the NYSOH 2015 Open Enrollment Report.

Over 2.1 million New Yorkers have enrolled in quality coverage since the New York State of Health marketplace’s launch in 2013! Yesterday the New York State of Health released its report on the second open enrollment period, which ran November 15, 2014 through February 28, 2015. HCFANY is excited to dive into the numbers over the course of the coming weeks; we’ll share our analysis with you via this blog series, on twitter (@HCFANY), and Facebook.

The New York State of Health (NYSOH) goal was to enroll 1.1 million New Yorkers in health coverage in its first three years of operation. It’s an amazing accomplishment that almost double that number of people have been enrolled in only two years! On the individual market, enrollment has soared from less than 18,000 people before the marketplace opened (2012) to 450,000 in 2015.[i] And the marketplace continues to meet a critical need; over 89% of enrollees reported being uninsured when they applied.2015 Infographics - Qualified Health Plans

The marketplace is also succeeding in making coverage more affordable. Nearly three quarters of enrollees (74%) in the commercial plans – called Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) – received premium subsidies, which help bring down premium costs for middle-income people.

Of the 2,143,413 New Yorkers who have used the marketplace, 73% enrolled in Medicaid, and 95% of those consumers were uninsured at the time of application. We’re already gearing up for the third open enrollment period, which begins November 1, 2015!

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the NYSOH 2015 Open Enrollment Report.

[i] http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/sites/default/files/Insurance%20Markets%20Study.pdf