New York Advocates and Allies Hold Fifth Round of Annual ACA Summits Across the State

open enrollment graphicGuest 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.

NYSOH Presentation 2017 Enrollment Summits

CHP PictureIn the midst of the chaos being caused by the most recent effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there is another very important program at risk: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP covers more than 9 million children nationwide and more than 630,000 in New York State alone. Without Congressional action, federal funding for CHIP will expire on September 30 of this year. New York will exhaust its share of CHIP funds in March 2018.

But there is some good news! This morning, the Senate Finance Committee released a bill that would extend federal funding for CHIP for an additional five years – through 2022. The bill keeps the additional federal matching funds (or “the 23% bump”) for states through 2019. The bill would also extend other provisions of CHIP such as:

  • Child Enrollment Contingency Fund – this is for states that predict a CHIP funding shortfall because of higher than expected enrollment
  • Qualifying State Option – this is a rule that allows states to use CHIP funding to pay for the difference between Medicaid and CHIP reimbursement to providers who care for higher-income children in Medicaid expansion versions of CHIP
  • Express Lane Eligibility – this option allows states to use eligibility for other public programs to make eligibility determinations for CHIP. This makes it much easier for kids to get covered!
  • Affordability Standards – Premiums for CHIP cannot cost more than 5 percent of income for families earning less than 300 % of the Federal Poverty Level

New York’s kids and children across the country who rely on CHIP need this bill to make it across the finish line. Please join HCFANY for a webinar on Thursday, September 21 at 2PM to hear from Judith Arnold, Director, Division of Eligibility and Marketplace Integration at the New York State Department of Health, and some of our advocates here at HCFANY on CHIP, what it means for New York, and how you can get involved.

Check out HCFANY’s latest fact sheet on CHIP here.

open enrollment graphicYesterday, the NY State of Health, New York State’s official health plan Marketplace announced in a press release that Open Enrollment for the 2018 plan year would begin on November 1, 2017 and last for a full three months, ending on January 31, 2018. As you may have heard in the spring, the federal government slashed Open Enrollment to just six weeks. This move is much better for consumers who are often overwhelmed during the busy holiday season. With this action, New York joins others progressive states like California, Washington, and Minnesota in extending the 2018 enrollment period.

If you or someone you know needs help selecting and enrolling in a health insurance plan, Navigators are available to assist. Please call (888) 614.5400 for in-person assistance in your area. Don’t forget, consumers enrolling in Medicaid, the Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus can enroll year-round!

NYIC_Logo-RV_Mar13,2012Guest post by Max Hadler, Senior Health Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. On Tuesday, September 5, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. The announcement sets in motion a process to further disrupt the lives of 800,000 individuals who President Trump has been threatening since he launched his campaign in 2015. Created by an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA provides two-year work authorizations and deferral of deportation to DREAMers – people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, have resided in the country continuously since 2007, do not have a criminal record, and have either graduated from high school, are currently enrolled in an educational program, or have served in the U.S. military.

The cruelty and inhumanity of Trump’s DACA decision have serious health implications. Most acutely, the stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty around DACA have created an immediate need for mental health services for recipients and their families. The rescission undermines the powerful emotional healing effect DACA has had on U.S. citizen children with DACAmented mothers, an impact recently highlighted in this Science article.

At a time when DACA recipients most need access to comprehensive health coverage, the termination of the program profoundly threatens their eligibility for any coverage at all. As a result of the work authorizations granted by their DACA status, many of the 42,000 DACAmented New Yorkers are covered by employer-sponsored insurance. Once their work authorizations expire, these individuals will lose access to both their jobs and their health insurance.

The impending end of DACA is particularly important in New York. Our state considers DACA recipients to be “permanently residing under color of law,” or PRUCOL, and thus eligible for state-funded Medicaid. As a result, between 5,000 and 10,000 DACAmented New Yorkers have Medicaid coverage. Many advocates believe there is a legal argument that DACA recipients should still be considered PRUCOL after they lose DACA status, but it remains unclear if the State agrees.

Even without a specific legal underpinning, the state can and should continue to cover this population. The Department of Health seemed to acknowledge this by releasing a statement on Tuesday that read in part, “New York State believes it has a legal and moral obligation to exhaust every available avenue to protect immigrants and their families by providing comprehensive access to health care, regardless of circumstance.”

The Coverage 4 All campaign has proposed a number of solutions for New York State. To start, New York can ensure the continued coverage of DACA recipients through state-financed Medicaid. There are also existing policy proposals that would protect a broader range of young adult immigrants, including those who lose their employer-sponsored insurance. Assembly Bill 8054 would expand the Child Health Plus program to age 29, extending New York’s universal children’s coverage program to young adults currently excluded because of their status, including many of the DREAMers who stand to lose their coverage when their DACA authorizations expire.

The DACA decision is only the latest attack on immigrant communities from the Trump administration. In this hostile environment, it is imperative that New York State take action to meaningfully protect and promote the health coverage of its immigrant residents.

*Anyone in New York City in need of mental health services should call NYC WELL, a hotline staffed by licensed counselors trained to help with anxiety, depression, and other issues. NYC WELL counselors have been specifically trained to work with call-ins related to DACA.