Last week, we got great news from NY State of Health. As of February 25, over half a million New Yorkers had enrolled in insurance plans through NY State of Health. To put that in perspective, New York’s three year goal is to enroll 1 million New Yorkers in health plans. So, we’re already over halfway there, and we still have one-month to go in the first year of enrollment.
Even more exciting is the fact that 70 percent of enrollees were uninsured when they applied. That’s 350,844 New Yorkers that now have health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Big numbers are always hard to picture, so let’s break this down:
Let’s say all of those newly insured wanted to go see the Mets play at Citi Field. Big stadium, right? The capacity is 45,000. The over 350,000 newly insured New Yorkers would fill Citi Field. About 8 times.
That many uninsured New Yorkers finally getting health care is something to celebrate! And, we still have nearly a month to go until the end of open enrollment on March 31.
This Saturday is National Youth Enrollment Day, a day of action to educate young adults on the importance of having health insurance. Celebrities like Amy Poehler (above), are helping to get the word out and the Young Invincibles campaign is encouraging people to share the message to friends and networks. Young adults between 19 and 34 have disproportionately high uninsured rates – those 19-29 have the highest rate in the country, representing over a third of the uninsured population. They also tend to be healthier than older adults. (Which doesn’t mean they (we) don’t want and need health insurance!)
Because this group tends to be healthy, there has been a lot of talk about so-called “Young Invincibles” and the way enrollment rates among these young adults may impact the overall success of the Health Insurance Marketplaces. The logic goes that if more healthy, young adults enroll in Marketplace plans, this will subsidize the older and sicker population that enrolls. With too many sick enrollees, experts expect to see higher insurance rates. As of the end of December, about 1/4 of enrollees around the nation were young adults – 26% in New York. Some have questioned whether these numbers are high enough to protect the risk pools, while others have pointed out that many young adults are likely to wait until later in the enrollment period to sign up. There is also controversy about whether “young adults” should really be the focus – in fact, the Commonwealth Fund just released a new report on the subject, arguing that it is the health status of the insured pool, not age, that really makes the difference.
We do know that thousands of New Yorkers between 19 and 35 have already signed up and are benefiting from the new, more affordable options available to them. Take Tamika G., a 26-year-old from Brooklyn who will now pay $135/month for insurance that gives her peace of mind and access to the services she needs. Tamika was eligible for financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost-saving reductions – these reduced her monthly premium and lowered her other out-of-pocket costs. For many young adults who have struggled to afford insurance in the past, this financial assistance will make the dream of being covered a reality.
Now that she’s insured, Tamika is ready to share the love:
“I’m going to tell my friends as soon as I get home that this is the way to go. You don’t want to break your arm and worry about how you’re going to pay for it.”
Out of all of the attention on young adult enrollment, this is the message that should stand out: Health insurance is for all of us, young adults included. Now that we have our chance to finally have the affordable, quality coverage we deserve, let’s take it – and make sure our friends do, too.
Left: Adora Campis (red hat) with parade participants at the annual Three King’s Day parade in Harlem; Right: Adora and Maryanne Tomazic of Raising Women’s Voices – NY at HCFANY’s Annual Meeting Thursday, January 9.
Guest post: Lois Uttley, Director, MergerWatch Project/Raising Women’s Voices-NY
Adora Campis is a part-time bilingual (English and Spanish) outreach worker for Raising Women’s Voices-NY. She will go pretty much anywhere to find uninsured women and families and tell them about the new health coverage options available through NY State of Health, New York’s Marketplace!
Last Monday, she joined the annual Three King’s Day parade through East Harlem to talk to uninsured people along the route in this neighborhood with many low-income, Spanish-speaking people. (She’s in the red hat in the photo left, above). Later in the week , she spoke at HCFANY’s annual meeting in Albany about why she is so passionate about her work.
Here is her story:
I’m sure you want to know about the faces of the uninsured that I have met in New York City. This much I know. From a homeless person at a soup kitchen starving for medical care, to a degree-holding woman facing loss of coverage and having to pay too much for COBRA – they want and are eager for affordable health care.
The timing is right. The uninsured are diverse and come from all walks of life. Some of them are people in between jobs, others are at jobs that have no health benefits. Some are recent college graduates, others are new citizens. Some have young kids, others are still kids themselves.
Sometimes they are people like me. I am a single mother and raised two children on my own. My son unexpectedly needed health care while he was in college. Luckily he had health insurance. It wasn’t the best, so we still got a $1,000 bill. But there was peace of mind knowing that he was able to get the care he needed.
I didn’t have health insurance though. Last year, I had worked for a couple organizations part-time, but still couldn’t afford to buy health care coverage on my own. Because New York decided to expand Medicaid eligibility this year, I was able to enroll in health insurance through NY State of Health and now am covered.
That’s what I love about going into the community to talk about these new changes. I know it works. It can be scary approaching strangers at community events to talk about health reform, but I’ve found that everyone is very passionate about this. They have personal, sometimes painful stories. But they all end in the fact that this change couldn’t be any more timely. People welcome it!
HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force gathered in Albany on Wednesday, December 11th to share updates about several key issues. Over 30 task force members were there, from consumer advocacy organizations, Navigator networks, and other organizations dedicated to the health of children and families. Here’s a rundown of the meeting highlights:
Judy Arnold from the New York State Department of Health spoke for nearly an hour, sharing numerous updates and answering questions about the New York State of Health marketplace. She is truly a fount of information! She let us know that over 100,000 have enrolled through the marketplace since October, including about 30,000 in Medicaid (Medicaid numbers are still being finalized). Soon, the State will be able to provide data on demographics of enrollees, which will be especially exciting to anyone in the health care advocacy world. With the rush to enroll before the December deadline, the State’s help line has been experiencing extremely high call volume – about 1,500 calls per hour – so the State is working on some changes to meet the demand (that’s a lot of New Yorkers seeking affordable health insurance!).
Lara Kassel from Medicaid Matters New York (MMNY) gave an update on the joint MMNY and HCFANY Public Programs Work Group. The group recently met with representatives from the New York State of Health to discuss priority issues, from making sure undocumented immigrants are able to enroll in emergency Medicaid through the marketplace website to ensuring continuing education and training for Navigators.
Bridget Walsh from the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy gave an update on the “foster kids” provision in the ACA. The provision allows young adults who were formerly in foster care to stay on Medicaid up to age 26 (mirroring the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance). We got a sneak peak of a video made by a former foster youth that SCAA will soon post on their website, where you can already find great resources about this issue.
Kate Breslin, also from SCAA, gave a brief update on the Basic Health Program option in New York State. HCFANY recently submitted a letter on behalf of over 50 organizations around the state urging Governor Cuomo to include a Basic Health Program in his 2014 budget. You can read the final letter here.
Lorraine Gonzalez from Children’s Defense Fund – New York talked about School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) and explored the financial sustainability of these important community resources in light of Medicaid redesign – which changes the reimbursement process for SBHCs – and new funding opportunities for SBHCs in the ACA. CDF’s full report with recommendations on this issue is set to be released in January.
Our next chance to convene is right around the corner! We’ll have a Children, Youth, & Families Task Force breakout session at the HCFANY annual meeting on January 9th in Albany. Register here for the meeting, and we’ll see you there!