Guest post by Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.
On Wednesday, December 13, the Assembly Committee on Health, the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Taskforce, and the Assembly Taskforce on New Americans convened a public hearing on Immigrant access to healthcare. Coverage 4 All, a campaign of Health Care For All New York led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York was instrumental in advocating for the hearing. The campaign’s goal is to expand insurance eligibility to all New Yorkers to reduce disparities in coverage. Barriers to coverage are just one of the many current threats to immigrant health access and quality.
Agencies that provided testimony included the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrants Affairs, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York City Health + Hospitals. In addition, fifteen individuals from a range of social service, advocacy, health care, and community settings spoke about the impact of the federal administration on immigrant mobility, health utilization, coverage eligibility, and enforcement of language access regulation. Amid a federal landscape hostile to immigrants, New York State programs and protections are increasingly important.
Critical areas of particular attention included making sure that new mothers know they can safely continue to enroll in Medicaid and get prenatal care regardless of their immigration status, and continue to use the Women’s Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition services. Another area of common interest among advocates was the opportunity that the state has to expand the Child Health Plus insurance program to cover young adults up to age 29 at a cost of $81 million. Dr. Alan Shapiro, co-founder of Terra Firma, which works with unaccompanied minors, noted that health needs don’t end when young people turn 19. These individuals “still have comprehensive primary care needs. They need access to immunizations, urgent care, sexual and reproductive health services.” The Child Health Plus Expansion is part of Health Care for All New York’s policy agenda, and the key priority of the Coverage 4 All campaign.
Hearing testimony from multiple stakeholders also highlighted the critical nature of improving enforcement of language access regulations, addressing mental health needs of immigrant communities subject to heightened stress under enhanced federal immigration enforcement, and ensuring that safety net hospitals have the revenue they need to care for all New York State residents.
New York State’s official health plan Marketplace, the NY State of Health (NYSOH), announced this morning that more than 45,000 New Yorkers enrolled in Qualified Health Plan and Essential Plan coverage for the first time during the first four week of Open Enrollment. This represents an 13 percent increase in Marketplace participation compared to the first four weeks of last year’s open enrollment, and there are still two months left to enroll.
According to the press release, New York’s uninsured rate has reached a new historic low of 4.7 percent compared to 10 percent in 2013.
The release also notes the incredible success of New York’s Basic Health Plan, branded the Essential Plan, which now has nearly 700,000 individuals enrolled.
Open enrollment continues through January 31, 2018. You can enroll in health coverage through the NYSOH website. If you need help enrolling, Navigators are available to provide in-person assistance. Please call (888) 614-5400 to find a Navigator in your area.
Guest 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.
In 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.