Last Chance to Weigh in on Fidelis Sale!

HCFANY sent an e-alert out a couple of weeks ago about the sale of Fidelis Care, one of New York’s major non-profit health insurance companies, to a for-profit company called Centene. Fidelis Care has 1.7 million members and a social mission to provide affordable health coverage to as many people as possible. Losing it to a company that has no such mission could have a big impact on New York. Public comments on this sale are due to the Attorney General tomorrow.

Centene has already agreed to provide service in the same areas with the same networks for three years. And $3 billion in profits from the sale have been set aside to create a new charitable foundation whose activities are still being determined. But advocates are concerned because the public part of the process has been severely lacking. Too many decisions have been made already without adequate chances for the public to weigh in. For example, the board of the new foundation has limited to no representation for consumers. Instead, its proposed members represent finance and the health care industry. Advocates are also concerned about what will happen to consumers after three years, when Centene no longer has any obligation to continue Fidelis Care’s non-profit mission.

It is important that consumers weigh in on this change. We have to make sure that the people who depend on Fidelis are protected and that the billions in profits generated by the sale are used to meaningfully benefit the public. Advocates have drafted a full-length letter that you or your organization can download and use (find it here). There are also short bullet points below that can serve as a guide if you’d like to draft your own comments. Your comments can be as long or short as you wish – the important thing is to send them!

To submit your comments, email fidelis.transaction@ag.ny.gov with the subject “In the Matter of Fidelis.” You can find the notice posted by the Attorney General here.

What We Want from the Attorney General

  • A better public process – a sale of this magnitude should not happen without a longer comment period, a public hearing, and better notifications to current Fidelis enrollees.
  • A foundation that truly serves consumers:
    • The majority of board members should represent consumers who get health insurance through public programs and the individual market. The proposed board members represent the healthcare and finance industries – not consumers or community groups.
    • The mission should be expanding health insurance coverage and making health insurance affordable. Fidelis Care has a social mission to provide affordable health coverage to as many people as possible; the new for-profit insurer has no such mission. The foundation should focus on mitigating that loss.

RWV National Women's Health Month 2018 GraphicGuest post by Jessica Pierson, graduate student intern with Raising Women’s Voices-NY.

National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day and will continue through Saturday, May 19th. Raising Women’s Voices-NY is celebrating by hosting activities and providing resources to promote women’s health throughout the week.

On Tuesday, May 15th, Raising Women’s Voices is hosting a Twitter Chat from 2 to 3 p.m. to discuss women’s health using the hashtag, #HerHealth. Organizations from around the country will be sharing information on a range of women’s health topics, such as what to expect at a well-woman visit, black maternal health disparities, how to take advantage of cost-free preventive services, reproductive health care for trans folks and how to navigate the health care system.

National Women’s Health Week is a great time to remind women to schedule their annual well-woman visit, which is free with their health insurance. RWV has created a flyer outlining key women’s preventive services for health organizations to use in promoting National Women’s Health Week. Navigating the health system can be difficult and confusing. RWV’s flyer can help simplify women’s experiences with the health system by explaining that services such as birth control, STI/HIV testing, blood pressure tests, flu shots and help quitting smoking are all included in a free well-women’s visit! The flyer also explains how to schedule an appointment, what to expect at the appointment and how to get the most out of the visit. RWV suggests distributing these customizable flyers at bus stops, laundromats or other local spots in order to reach women in every corner of your community.

Looking to promote women’s health in your area? RWV suggests amplifying National Women’s Health week by hosting an open house or community care night, holding a panel discussion or press events.

The Affordable Care Act improved access to women’s health services, but still millions of women are uninsured. Although Open Enrollment for health insurance through NY State of Health doesn’t start again until November, women may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period of 60 days if they experience a qualifying life event. Examples include losing your job-based health insurance, getting married, having a baby, adopting a child or, in New York only, becoming pregnant. Medicaid, Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus enrollment continue year-round. If you think you might qualify for enrollment, contact the Community Health Advocates hotline at 888-614-5400.

It is imperative that we celebrate National Women’s Health Week by helping women get insured and utilize their insurance wisely to optimize their health and well-being, and catch health problems early. RWV hopes you will join us for our Twitter Chat on May 15 and help us promote women’s health all week long!

Recent changes to the federal tax law may have a specific new effect on New Yorkers who apply for coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health (NYSOH).

A specific deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses will no longer be allowed in 2018.  This means that new and renewing applicants will no longer be able to lower their countable income by the amount they qualified for under this deduction when they sign up for health coverage on NYSOH.  In previous tax years, ending with 2017, taxpayers could lower their taxable income by up to $4000. This could affect the eligibility of some New Yorkers for programs that help pay for health insurance.   These programs include subsidies for Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan.

The deduction allowed up to $4000 in qualified expenses, which meant that New Yorkers who qualified in the past could reduce their income by this amount, potentially making them eligible for a more generous health insurance program. Although the qualified tuition and related expenses deduction actually expired at the end of 2016,  On February 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended this deduction retroactively to the end of 201. However, the deduction is no longer available as of January 1, 2018.

If you need tax advice on this subject, you can use the IRS resources on qualified education expenses, here and here.  Free tax assistance is available to qualified taxpayers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  There is more information on the program here.

For free help with a New York State of Health application for health insurance, you contact the Community Service Society Navigator Network, either by calling 1 888 614 5400 or emailing enroll@cssny.org.

C4A LogoGuest post by Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

On Wednesday, December 13, the Assembly Committee on Health, the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Taskforce, and the Assembly Taskforce on New Americans convened a public hearing on Immigrant access to healthcare.  Coverage 4 All, a campaign of Health Care For All New York led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York was instrumental in advocating for the hearing. The campaign’s goal is to expand insurance eligibility to all New Yorkers to reduce disparities in coverage.   Barriers to coverage are just one of the many current threats to immigrant health access and quality.

Agencies that provided testimony included the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrants Affairs, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York City Health + Hospitals.  In addition, fifteen individuals from a range of social service, advocacy, health care, and community settings spoke about the impact of the federal administration on immigrant mobility, health utilization, coverage eligibility, and enforcement of language access regulation. Amid a federal landscape hostile to immigrants, New York State programs and protections are increasingly important.

Critical areas of particular attention included making sure that new mothers know they can safely continue to enroll in Medicaid and get prenatal care regardless of their immigration status, and continue to use the Women’s Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition services. Another area of common interest among advocates was the opportunity that the state has to expand the Child Health Plus insurance program to cover young adults up to age 29 at a cost of $81 million.  Dr. Alan Shapiro, co-founder of Terra Firma, which works with unaccompanied minors, noted that health needs don’t end when young people turn 19.  These individuals “still have comprehensive primary care needs. They need access to immunizations, urgent care, sexual and reproductive health services.” The Child Health Plus Expansion is part of Health Care for All New York’s policy agenda, and the key priority of the Coverage 4 All campaign.

Hearing testimony from multiple stakeholders also highlighted the critical nature of improving enforcement of language access regulations, addressing mental health needs of immigrant communities subject to heightened stress under enhanced federal immigration enforcement, and ensuring that safety net hospitals have the revenue they need to care for all New York State residents.