Two weeks ago, children’s health advocates from across the country came together in Washington, DC for the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families Annual Conference. The conference provides an excellent opportunity for national and state advocates to share their experiences and learn from one another. This year’s conference theme was “Clear Skies or Foggy Times Ahead for Child and Family Coverage?” Topics included the future of children’s health coverage, strengthening and expanding Medicaid, and improving the quality and delivery of children’s health services.
We heard from experts in the field about the impact of perception, race, and bias on Medicaid, avenues for improving network adequacy, and the final Medicaid managed care regulations and what they mean for children and families.
HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force represented New York consumer advocates at the conference. HCFANY’s Elisabeth Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, spoke on a panel that explored the means by which advocates can work to improve access to care in both public and private coverage programs.
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.
A report released this week by Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 58% of uninsured New Yorkers are eligible for free or subsidized health coverage. The majority of them – 548,000 people – are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid. There are several reasons why people who are eligible for Medicaid have not enrolled: some do not know they’re now eligible under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, some avoid Medicaid because of the stigma of poverty attached to the program, and some have had their income drop since they last applied for coverage.
The 317,000 New Yorkers who are uninsured but would qualify for financial assistance (such as Cost Sharing Reductions and Advance Premium Tax Credits) on the Marketplace includes consumers who are newly-eligible for the Essential Plan, New York’s forthcoming Basic Health Program. Consumers enrolled in the Essential Plan will have monthly premiums of $0 or $20 a month, no deductible, and very low copays; this combination should assuage the fears of people who believe health coverage is too expensive. The New York State of Health hopes to draw consumers back during the third Open Enrollment period, which begins on November 1, by highlighting these new levels of affordability. They’ll be targeting these 317,000 New Yorkers with videos, social media campaigns, and catchy new graphics (stay tuned for more!).
Nearly a third of uninsured New Yorkers – 457,000 people – are unauthorized immigrants. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent announcement on connecting immigrants to care through a “Direct Access” program was a crucial first step for those immigrants living in the City, and Health Care for All New York will continue to advocate for comprehensive health insurance coverage for our undocumented neighbors. New York State has done a fabulous job in the first two Open Enrollment periods in connecting people to coverage, and the rollout of the Essential Plan will be another step in the right direction. A critical next step for closing the coverage gap in New York will be expanding affordable coverage to New Yorkers who are excluded from coverage options because of immigration status.
Last week child health advocates from across the country came together in Washington, DC for the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families annual conference. This year’s conference theme was “Building a Strong Foundation,” including strengthening and protecting Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA.
We heard from experts in the field on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed changes to the Medicaid Managed Care regulations. These changes to Medicaid will affect millions of low-income kids in America. The proposed changes to the regulations would raise the standards for quality assurance and network adequacy, and strengthen other consumer protections. There were also presentations on the future of Medicaid and CHIP.
HCFANY’s Children, Youth & Families Task Force represented New York consumer advocates at the conference. Our own Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra’s presented on “Health Coverage for People in Immigrant Families.” We also shared the news about recent New York consumer victories, like New York’s CHP effective date bill and our first-in-the-nation special enrollment period for pregnancy, in breakout sessions with consumer advocates from other states. State-based advocacy is stronger when we learn and share from one another!