A first look at Governor Cuomo’s 2015-2016 health care budget

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Guest post: Elisabeth R. Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives, Community Service Society of New York

The eagerly awaited  Cuomo Administration’s budget bill was posted late Wednesday afternoon, January 21, 2015.  The health section is a mere 170 pages long, making it a tough winter evening read. HCFANY’s policy experts and allies will parse the details over the next week and post a detailed reaction…err, later.  However, we have identified two bits of good news for New York’s health insurance consumers right away.

First, the Governor Cuomo proposed a broad-based insurance financing mechanism for the NY State of Health Marketplace.  This is good news for individuals and small employers because it means that those folks who are insured through the Marketplace will not disproportionately shoulder the burden of guaranteeing affordable, quality health coverage for New Yorkers.  The alternative of placing a financing fee on marketplace enrollees would have resulted in Marketplace enrollees paying higher insurance rates than individuals and groups covered by plans purchased outside of the Marketplace.  The broad-based financing mechanism proposed by the Administration will ensure a level playing field for all New York’s health insurance consumers.

The second piece of great news is that the Cuomo Administration has proposed $2.5 million in state funding for the Community Health Advocates (CHA) program.  CHA has offered information about how to enroll and use health insurance coverage and care to nearly 200,000 New Yorkers since its launch in late 2010.  CHA’s  network of 21 community based organizations, small business serving groups (like Chambers of Commerce), and specialists serve New Yorkers both in their local communities and through a live answer help-line.  Together, CHA’s groups act as an “HR” department for New York’s health insurance consumers who need a little extra help accessing or understanding how to get care.

HCFANY lauds Governor Cuomo’s Administration on these proposals and looks forward to working with the Administration during this legislative season.

Full Manhattan panel

From left to right, Mark Hannay, LGBT Task Force Co-Chair; Star Morris of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; City Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson; Jay Laudato, Executive Director of Callen-Lorde; David Sandman, Senior Vice President of the NYS Health Foundation; and Lois Uttley, LGBT Task Force Co-Chair.

Uninsured LGBT New Yorkers Urged to Sign Up for Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Plans by Feb. 15 Deadline

Guest Post: Lois Uttley, Director of Raising Women’s Voices – NY and C0-Chair of HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force

HCFANY LGBT Task Force members today launched a week of activities to inform uninsured LGBT New Yorkers about their coverage options and help them apply before the Feb. 15 enroll through the NY State of Health Marketplace. An estimated 1 in 4 LGBT people who would qualify for financial aid to buy health plans are still uninsured nationwide.

New York City Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson joined Task Force members for a kickoff press conference at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Chelsea, one of several LGBT-friendly Navigator agencies participating in this week’s activities. “This week, we are getting the word out to LGBT New Yorkers in all five boroughs: Get enrolled, get covered! All New Yorkers deserve quality, affordable health insurance,” said Council Member Johnson, who facilitates the Council’s LGBT Caucus. “There is a wide variety of services available to help LGBT New Yorkers get enrolled and every effort must be made to inform the community about them. This is particularly important because there are well-documented health disparities that affect our community.”

NYS Health Foundation Vice President David Sandman noted the success of NY State of Health Marketplace so far in enrolling previously uninsured New Yorkers and the importance of the new coverage opportunities for LGBT people. “For LGBT New Yorkers, those benefits cannot come soon enough. Numerous studies have found that LGBT people are uninsured at disproportionately high rates.” The Foundation has been supporting the work of HCFANY and LGBT Navigator agencies such as Callen-Lorde.

Callen-Lorde Executive Director Jay Laudato explained his agency’s experience with providing enrollment assistance: “At Callen-Lorde, we were thrilled to be able to enroll nearly 3,000 individuals – many of whom were previously uninsured – with low and no-cost health insurance products under the Affordable Care Act..”

Other LGBT-friendly agencies participating in the week’s activities include the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, Voces Latinas in Queens, GMHC, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, the Community Service Society and Make the Road NY, which has offices in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Information and enrollment events are scheduled in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County. All of these organizations belong to HCFANY’s LGBT Task Force, which has organized the week’s activities, said Task Force Co-Chair Mark Hannay.

“We want uninsured LGBT New Yorkers to know that you can apply for coverage without fear of discrimination or being turned down because of pre-existing conditions,” said LGBT Task Force Co-Chair Lois Uttley. She noted that same-sex married couples and any children they may have are eligible for family coverage. Under a new state policy, private health plans being offered in the NY State of Health Marketplace now must cover medically-necessary gender transition services. The state has also proposed lifting some of the existing restrictions on Medicaid coverage for medically-necessary transgender care.

LGBT Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment Week is being organized by the LGBT Task Force of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY, www.hcfany.org), as part of a national week of activities, endorsed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, to reach uninsured LGBT Americans with information about new health insurance coverage options created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Organizations involved in planning and coordinating this week of events in New York include the Beth Israel Medical Center/Mount Sinai Health System, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Community Service Society of New York, LGBT Community Center, Make the Road New York, Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, Raising Women’s Voices-New York and Voces Latinas.

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New Yorkers have five more days to enroll in January 1 coverage! On Friday, the NY State of Health extended the Dec 15 enrollment deadline to December 20 for coverage that begins January 1.

Remember that this deadline only applies to coverage that begins January 1. New Yorkers can still enroll in NY State of Health coverage beginning in February or March up until February 15, 2015 – by January 15 for coverage starting February 1, and by February 15 for coverage starting March 1. New Yorkers can enroll online, by phone, and get in-person help to enroll from an enrollment assistor.

It’s looking like another good year for affordable, quality health insurance thanks to the ACA. Nearly 155,000 New Yorkers have newly enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace since the start of open enrollment on November 15 . That’s in addition to the many who are renewing last year’s coverage. You can find stories from New Yorkers who enrolled last year in our recently released story booklet: The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories.

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“The Affordable Care Act gave me a chance and ended my six year nightmare of living without health insurance. It was way more simple and affordable than people think.”

-Karen E., Ulster County

The Affordable Care Act is working in New York, according to HCFANY’s new publication, The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories.

The new publication shares stories from New Yorkers like Karen, a single mother from Ulster County, who was finally able to get affordable health coverage for her family after being uninsured for six years, thanks to federal subsidies. Ben, from Broome county got covered thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion and enrolled in the same plan as his son. And Engracia got help from a local Navigator to enroll in a plan that saves her $4,500 a year.

The ACA is Working: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories features twelve consumer stories and quotes from New Yorkers in all regions of the State who enrolled in private Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and small business plans, all through the NY State of Health Marketplace during the first Open Enrollment period. Many got help to enroll from Navigators, who offer free, unbiased, in-person enrollment help. The stories are paired with key statistics and facts about how the ACA is working for New York – and most importantly, New Yorkers.

View HCFANY’s full press release here.