Guest 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.
New York State’s official health plan Marketplace, the NY State of Health (NYSOH), announced this morning that more than 45,000 New Yorkers enrolled in Qualified Health Plan and Essential Plan coverage for the first time during the first four week of Open Enrollment. This represents an 13 percent increase in Marketplace participation compared to the first four weeks of last year’s open enrollment, and there are still two months left to enroll.
According to the press release, New York’s uninsured rate has reached a new historic low of 4.7 percent compared to 10 percent in 2013.
The release also notes the incredible success of New York’s Basic Health Plan, branded the Essential Plan, which now has nearly 700,000 individuals enrolled.
Open enrollment continues through January 31, 2018. You can enroll in health coverage through the NYSOH website. If you need help enrolling, Navigators are available to provide in-person assistance. Please call (888) 614-5400 to find a Navigator in your area.
Guest 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.
Many of you may have heard reports that the Trump Administration will be cutting federal funding for the Navigator program for the upcoming year. Navigators are individuals or organizations specially trained and certified to help consumers shop for and enroll in health insurance coverage through the Marketplace.
These cuts do not affect New York. New York State runs its own state-based Marketplace, the New York State of Health (NYSOH), and thanks to the continued support of the State government, New York also funds its own Navigator program and will not be affected by federal cuts.
Navigators and other in-person assistors are available to help consumers in every county in New York State. According to the 2017 NYSOH Open Enrollment Report, there were 526 Navigators and more than 5,000 Certified Application Counselors (CAC) and Facilitated Enrollers (FE) in New York as of January 31, 2017. Among consumers who enrolled in coverage through NYSOH, 72 percent did so with the help of a Navigator, CAC, or FE. An even greater proportion of consumers used in-person assistance when enrolling in public coverage through the Marketplace. Seventy-seven percent of consumers who enrolled in Medicaid, 74 percent of consumers who enrolled in Child Health Plus, and 83 percent of consumers who enrolled in the Essential Plan all used in-person assistance to choose the best plan for their needs.
Open Enrollment for the 2018 plan year begins on November 1, 2017. If you or someone you know needs help selecting and enrolling in a health insurance plan, please call (888) 614.5400 for in-person assistance in your area. Remember, consumers enrolling in Medicaid, the Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus can enroll year-round!