HCFANY sent an e-alert out a couple of weeks ago about the sale of Fidelis Care, one of New York’s major non-profit health insurance companies, to a for-profit company called Centene. Fidelis Care has 1.7 million members and a social mission to provide affordable health coverage to as many people as possible. Losing it to a company that has no such mission could have a big impact on New York. Public comments on this sale are due to the Attorney General tomorrow.
Centene has already agreed to provide service in the same areas with the same networks for three years. And $3 billion in profits from the sale have been set aside to create a new charitable foundation whose activities are still being determined. But advocates are concerned because the public part of the process has been severely lacking. Too many decisions have been made already without adequate chances for the public to weigh in. For example, the board of the new foundation has limited to no representation for consumers. Instead, its proposed members represent finance and the health care industry. Advocates are also concerned about what will happen to consumers after three years, when Centene no longer has any obligation to continue Fidelis Care’s non-profit mission.
It is important that consumers weigh in on this change. We have to make sure that the people who depend on Fidelis are protected and that the billions in profits generated by the sale are used to meaningfully benefit the public. Advocates have drafted a full-length letter that you or your organization can download and use (find it here). There are also short bullet points below that can serve as a guide if you’d like to draft your own comments. Your comments can be as long or short as you wish – the important thing is to send them!
What We Want from the Attorney General
- A better public process – a sale of this magnitude should not happen without a longer comment period, a public hearing, and better notifications to current Fidelis enrollees.
- A foundation that truly serves consumers:
- The majority of board members should represent consumers who get health insurance through public programs and the individual market. The proposed board members represent the healthcare and finance industries – not consumers or community groups.
- The mission should be expanding health insurance coverage and making health insurance affordable. Fidelis Care has a social mission to provide affordable health coverage to as many people as possible; the new for-profit insurer has no such mission. The foundation should focus on mitigating that loss.
Recent changes to the federal tax law may have a specific new effect on New Yorkers who apply for coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health (NYSOH).
A specific deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses will no longer be allowed in 2018. This means that new and renewing applicants will no longer be able to lower their countable income by the amount they qualified for under this deduction when they sign up for health coverage on NYSOH. In previous tax years, ending with 2017, taxpayers could lower their taxable income by up to $4000. This could affect the eligibility of some New Yorkers for programs that help pay for health insurance. These programs include subsidies for Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan.
The deduction allowed up to $4000 in qualified expenses, which meant that New Yorkers who qualified in the past could reduce their income by this amount, potentially making them eligible for a more generous health insurance program. Although the qualified tuition and related expenses deduction actually expired at the end of 2016, On February 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended this deduction retroactively to the end of 201. However, the deduction is no longer available as of January 1, 2018.
If you need tax advice on this subject, you can use the IRS resources on qualified education expenses, here and here. Free tax assistance is available to qualified taxpayers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. There is more information on the program here.
For free help with a New York State of Health application for health insurance, you contact the Community Service Society Navigator Network, either by calling 1 888 614 5400 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you currently have a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) through the New York State of Health (NYSOH), New York’s official health insurance Marketplace, you can renew your coverage for 2018 starting TODAY.
Retuning consumers must renew their coverage between November 16, 2017 and December 15, 2017 to avoid a gap in coverage.
You can renew your coverage on your own by visiting the NYSOH website. If you or someone you know needs help renewing coverage, Navigators are available to assist! Please call 888.614.5400 for in-person enrollment assistance in your area.
Yesterday afternoon, the Senate released a tax bill that would eliminate the penalty for not having health insurance established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that repealing the individual mandate would cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance by 2027, including 4 million in the first year alone.
Without the individual mandate, younger, healthier people would lack incentive to purchase health insurance and would exit the individual market. This means that the people that remain in the individual market will be older, in poorer health, and require more expensive care, which will increase premiums. The CBO estimates that premiums would increase by about 10 percent in most years between 2018 and 2027, which could make it more difficult for people to afford health insurance in the future.
Congress could vote on this bill as early as tomorrow. Please call 202.224.3121 and tell your member of Congress to vote no on this bill that could hurt millions of people’s access to health care. You can choose to be connected to your Senator or your Representative.
Information on New York Targets:
- Representatives Zeldin, King, Donovan, and Stefanik have all said that they will vote “NO.” Please thank them and encourage them to stand strong!
- Representatives Faso, Tenney, and Katko are leaning toward voting “NO.” Please help push them to a definitive “NO” vote.
- Representatives Collins and Reed are supporting the bill.