Photo: Advocates and consumers at HCFANY’s press conference about how the Governor’s budget would make coverage more affordable, stop surprise bills, and support consumer assistance programs. From left: Gladys Puglla, consumer; Mark Scherzer, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage; Elisabeth Benjamin, Community Service Society; Lara Kassel, Medicaid Matters New York; Bob Cohen, Citizen Action of New York; Oswil Liz, consumer; Kate Breslin, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy (podium)
It’s budget season, and our advocacy efforts are in full swing. Yesterday, HCFANY members and supporters gathered in Albany from across the state – some trekking 5 hours to get there – to advocate for our key budget priorities:
- Create a Basic Health Program
- Protect consumers from surprise medical bills
- Support consumer assistance programs
We were not alone – the halls and elevators were full of other advocates who came to the capitol to make their case to the legislature. More importantly, we are not alone in our continued efforts to advocate for quality, affordable health care!
Over the past few weeks, HCFANY and allied groups and coalitions have joined forces to make sure that the three proposals above (all in Governor Cuomo’s executive budget) remain in the budget as the process moves forward. We’ve submitted memos of support and organizational sign-on letters on surprise bills and our three budget priorities, and gathered in Albany for advocacy days. We’ve also held two press conferences featuring the real stories of New Yorkers who would be helped by the Governor’s budget proposals. This collaboration helps to amplify our voices in Albany.
Key Budget Priorities Press Conference
We kicked off yesterday’s HCFANY advocacy day with a press conference featuring both advocates and consumers. Members of the HCFANY steering committee – Mark Scherzer of New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, Elisabeth Benjamin from the Community Service Society of New York, and Kate Breslin of Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy – joined Medicaid Matters New York Coalition Coordinator Lara Kassel to outline the benefits of the Basic Health Program, out-of-network protections, and consumer assistance programs. And, we heard from New Yorkers who have been directly affected by these issues:
Oswil Liz, 24, spoke about the challenge of affording health insurance, even with the subsidies available on the Marketplace. Thanks to the ACA, Oswil now has insurance, but with student loans and his wages working as a manager at McDonald’s, the premiums are still difficult for him to afford. A Basic Health Program would benefit Oswil and others in his situation.
Gladys Puglla, a single mother with three children told the stunning story of her experience with surprise medical bills. When Gladys had a stroke in 2012, she received services at two hospitals. Gladys has insurance, but she was unconscious when admitted to both hospitals and so couldn’t give her insurance information. After her treatment, she was hit with $138,000 in surprise medical bills for out-of-network services. Gladys makes $37,000 a year. Thankfully, Gladys was able to seek help from Make the Road New York, part of the Community Health Advocates statewide network of consumer assistance services. With their help, Gladys was able to reduce her bill and received a grant from the New York Times Neediest Cases fund to pay the difference. Many consumers do not have these resources, which is why HCFANY is working to stop surprise bills and support consumer assistance programs like those that helped Gladys.
Surprise Bills Press Conference
Late last week, Bill Ferris of AARP, Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and Chuck Bell of Consumers Union joined HCFANY members Heidi Siegfried of New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, Mike Burgess of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Gene Veigl and Aaron Ward of the MS Society at another press conference calling on the Legislature to pass the Governor’s legislation specifically to protect consumers from surprise medical bills.
Claudia Knafo, a concert pianist who received a surprise medical bill seeking $101,000 for neck surgery, for which her health plan offered to pay only $3,500, told her compelling story. You can see coverage by the local nbc affiliate here.
Learn more about our budget priorities:
Last week, Healthcare.gov relaunched its website with a new look and a new focus on providing information related to eligibility and enrollment in the new state health benefit exchanges (or “marketplaces”).
The site now allows you to put in basic information about yourself to find out what types of health insurance programs or savings you may be eligible for come this fall. There is even a live chat function to allow you to ask basic questions about how the Exchange will work and get them answered in real time.
The purpose for this face lift is to get information out to the masses to prepare them for the changes that are coming this fall, and the decisions they will need to make around health insurance starting October 1st.
You can check out the new site at the same URL: www.healthcare.gov (or in Spanish at www.cuidadodesalud.gov). To learn more about the changes made, click here to check out the press release issued by HHS.
HCFANY launched a new campaign today to provide outreach and education to uninsured LGBT New Yorkers around the new health options that will soon be available via the New York State Health Benefit Exchange. While health statistics on LGBT populations are not yet widely collected (something we are pushing to change) experts estimate that 1 in 4 LGBT people in the state are uninsured.
The outreach campaign will be headed up by HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force to help prepare people for the health insurance choices they may need to make once enrollment on the Exchange opens on October 1st.
The campaign was kicked off by a press briefing hosted by the New York State Health Foundation to bring attention to the unique needs of LGBT New Yorkers, illustrate how the Affordable Care Act is working to address them, and to lay out next steps.
- Kellan Baker, Director, LGBT State Exchanges Project, Center for American Progress
- Megan Fisk, Director of Family Services, LGBT Community Services Center of New York
- Mark Hannay, Director, Metro New York Health Care For All Campaign
- Jonathan Lang, Director of Governmental Projects and Community
Development, Empire State Pride Agenda
- Jay Laudato, Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
- David Sandman, Senior Vice President, New York State Health Foundation
- Lois Uttley, Director, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need
The new coverage options afforded by the ACA will benefit LGBT communities by providing wider access to affordable health care, increased data collection (which will work to inform future policy decisions), and a new ban on discrimination based on HIV status and sex, including gender identity.
The LGBT Task Force has been working with state Exchange officials to make sure that same-sex couples have the same opportunities for affordable health coverage. This includes allowing couples to pool their premium subsidies together to purchase family health plans on the Exchange.
Outreach will start at the June 30 PrideFest in Manhattan, and continue through the summer and fall.
Thanks to everyone who came to last week’s HCFANY briefing in NYC – was a great success and we ended up with a turnout of over 130 people.
Many attendees have been asking for copies of the presentations and materials we had available at the meeting, so we are posting them up here for anyone who is interested. Here is a quick recap:
- Sara Rothstein, Assistant Director for Policy and Planning for the New York Health Benefit Exchange presented an update on implementation of the NYS Health Benefit Exchange including a very broad overview of the State’s outreach and marketing plan, information on the Navigator RFA. You can view Sara’s presentation by clicking here.
Martine Apodaca, Director of the Public Education Campaign for Enroll America presented a profile of the uninsured in New York and their findings on messaging around the new health insurance options based on a national survey. You can view Martine’s presentation by clicking here.
Joanne Bailey, Director of Policy and Research at the New York City Office of Citywide Health Insurance Access (OCHIA) presented on the timeline for health reform implementation in the New York, including a profile of the uninsured in New York City, and the potential challenges and opportunities brought by the ACA. You can view Joanne’s presentation by clicking here.
In addition, we had several publications and handouts available:
- HCFANY’s 2013 ACA Advocacy Agenda
- Reaching One Million More New Yorkers: A Successful Enrollment Campaign for the Exchange
- HCFANY’s Agenda to Address Health Disparities
- New Coverage Options Coming Soon
- Profile of The Uninsured in NYC
- Small Employers and the Health Care Law
- Profile of the Uninsured: People With Disabilities in NYC