The NY State of Health’s (NYSOH) 2016 Open Enrollment Report shows that increased efforts to reach Limited English Proficient populations are making progress. This year, 20 percent of NYSOH enrollees indicated a language other than English as their preferred language compared to 18 percent in 2015. This increase is an important reflection of the diversity of our state.
To encourage outreach, NYSOH made consumer education materials available in 23 languages other than English, including five additional languages that were not available in 2015: Burmese, Karen, Somali, Swahili, and Tigrinya. NYSOH’s Customer Service Center also provided assistance to consumers in 93 languages other than English with an average of 20 percent of all calls to the Customer Service Center each month were answered in a language other than English compared to only 14 percent in 2015. Additionally, Navigators provided assistance in 37 languages other than English.
Gaps in information remain about New York’s diverse immigrant communities and their experiences enrolling in coverage through the NYSOH. Although this year’s Open Enrollment Report provides great information about enrollment for seven languages: Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Spanish, and Russian, the report does not provide insight into whether callers in additional languages were able to enroll after reaching the call center. The NYSOH Navigator program funds enrollment but not outreach activities. Last year, HCFANY urged the State to provide dedicated outreach funding to small community-based organizations that best know difficult to reach immigrant rural populations.
Guest blog by Bob Cohen, Esq. Policy Director at Citizen Action of New York and Public Policy and Education Fund of New York.
Fall is almost here, which means it’s time to start thinking about open enrollment! For the fourth consecutive year, HCFANY is teaming up with the Health Education Project of NY (HEPNY) and other groups to hold outreach and enrollment summits throughout New York State. This year, we’ll also be focusing on post-enrollment challenges. We encourage navigators, certified application counselors, health advocates, community members, health providers, union members, health insurance plan representatives, and small business representatives to attend.
Over 2.5 million New Yorkers filed applied for health coverage with NY State of Health last year — a great success!
This is a great opportunity to focus on continuing issues. First, there are still many “hard-to-reach” individuals that still have not enrolled in health coverage because of issues like language barriers and lack of information even if they qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Essential Plan. Second, some people are unfamiliar with many elements of how health coverage works, like deductibles and co-pays and navigating their plan’s network. Other individuals do not know what to do if they experience a problem, like medical bills that seem incorrect.
Each summit will feature a presentation on the state of outreach and enrollment by a NY State of Health representative, followed by speakers from Community Health Advocates (CHA) about how they can help consumers with post-enrollment issues, and finally presentations by the Health Care Education Project and Lois Uttley, Director of Raising Women’s Voices-New York, on health literacy. The first summit will be held on Wednesday, September 28 at the 1199SEIU in Albany from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Please see the Statewide Flyer for the complete schedule of outreach and enrollment summits.
Here’s the quick summary of how we did:
Comprehensive coverage for immigrants
HCFANY Recommendation: Provide $10.3 million in State funding to offer Essential Plan (EP) to legal immigrants who are barred from federally-funded EP.
Full funding for Community Health Advocates (CHA)
HCFANY Recommendation: Provide $4 million in funding for CHA to help people with their insurance problems and access to health care problems, when they occur.
Result: The final budget included $3.25 million for CHA–$2.5 million from the Executive and $750,000 from the Assembly. Due to the intricacies of State contracting, this means that the CHA program faces an 18% cut from the past year.
Prior Approval of insurance plan rate increases
HCFANY Recommendation: Reject a Senate One House bill proposal to repeal the State’s right to review proposed insurance premium increases.
Health Guaranty Fund
HCFANY Recommendation: Support with modifications the Senate and Assembly stand-alone bill which sought to set up a Health Guaranty fund to reimburse providers in the wake of a health plan closing (e.g. Health Republic).
Result: The budget establishes a fund that will be financed through “settlement funds” to reimburse providers. The process for distributing the funds is unknown and it appears to include no public representation and/or public reporting on the distributions.
Medicaid beneficiary protections
HCFANY Recommendation: HCFANY opposed the following threats to Medicaid beneficiaries: elimination of spousal/parental refusal, reduction of resources that spouses of people in MLTC or nursing homes can keep, and the repeal of “prescriber prevails.”
Result: None of these proposals made the final budget. That means spousal/parental refusal remains intact, spouses of people in MLTC or nursing homes will not see a cut in the amount of resources they can keep, and “prescriber prevails” will continue to be available in Medicaid.
HCFANY leaders are heading to the State Capitol today to speak to legislative leaders about our 2016 Policy Agenda. Here are a few of HCFANY’s ideas for ways that New York can continue to build on our successes to increase access to affordable quality health care for all.
Comprehensive Coverage for All Immigrants: New York can offer Essential Plan (EP) coverage for the roughly 5,500 New Yorkers who are ineligible for federal EP funding because of their immigration status by allocating $10.3 million in state-only funding for next year. New York should also explore ways to cover all immigrants, including those who are undocumented.
Consumer Assistance: Community Health Advocates (CHA) helps New Yorkers understand, use and keep their insurance by providing a central, toll-free helpline and community and small business-serving agencies throughout the State. Last year, New York provided $3 million in funding for a 9-month period. This year, New York should provide $4 million to ensure a year-round CHA program.
Consumer Outreach: While New York has exceeded enrollment expectations, 8% of New Yorkers remain uninsured. New York should build on its success by providing $2 million in funding for outreach and education by community-based organizations (CBOs) and small business-serving groups to reach the remaining uninsured. You can read more about these ideas in HCFANY’s Legislative Agenda Policy Brief and HCFANY Health/Medicaid Testimony on the 2016-2017 NYS Executive Budget.