A Westchester Family Gets Covered

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The first open enrollment period for NY State of Health has come to a close, and as of April 16, 960,762 New Yorkers were able to get health care plans through the state marketplace. That means there are nearly one million stories of New Yorkers getting affordable, quality health coverage because of the NY State of Health and the ACA.

Here’s one, from Maryanne Tomazic of Raising Women’s Voices – New York:

For Dustin* and Abigail*, NY State of Health meant their family didn’t have to go without coverage before Dustin starts his new job. Dustin and Abigail live with their family of five in a small town in Westchester County. Dustin was hired by a new company, but the transition meant that his family would experience a gap in health care coverage. “COBRA wasn’t a realistic option for us,” Abigail said. “It was too expensive.”

Fortunately, Dustin was able to get health insurance through NY State of Health. He and his daughter Elizabeth* initially filled out the application online, but had trouble reporting his income due to his job transition. They went to a Navigator, who helped correct the problem. “We also wanted to make sure we could still go to the doctors we’ve been going to for years and also to our local hospital, Westchester Medical Center,” said Dustin. “We called our doctor to confirm that the plan we picked included them in their network.” The family’s previous health care plan had been grandfathered by the ACA, so many preventive services still required copays. “I had to pay $86 a month for my birth control pills,” said Elizabeth. “With this new plan, I can now get the contraception I need at no additional cost.”

The family’s new health care plan took effect on April 1, so thanks to the Affordable Care Act and NY State of Health, their family did not experience a gap in coverage. Like the 960,762 New Yorkers, and the over 8 million Americans, who enrolled during this first open enrollment period, they now have an affordable, quality health insurance plan to help them get the care they need!

Engracia_GCNY_Homeless2Get Covered New York volunteer Engracia Jamieson

Guest post by Maryanne Tomazic, Raising Women’s Voices – New York (RWV-NY)

We’re in the final week of 2014 open enrollment, and people across the State are working around-the-clock to make sure those who still need affordable, quality health insurance have a chance to apply through NY State of Health. HCFANY partner Get Covered New York has been doing targeted outreach in hard-to-reach communities, including among low-income individuals and members of the homeless community.

As part of this work, I recently presented to staff members at the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that provides support to homeless men, women and children. Their services include housing, job training, emergency food, crisis intervention, and youth programs. The presentation helped staff members get the resources they need to identify clients who may be eligible for expanded Medicaid or financial aid to buy health care coverage.

Additionally, RWV-NY outreach intern Engracia Jamieson has joined the Coalition for the Homeless on some of their van routes throughout New York City. Here is what she had to say when asked about her experiences:

What kind of outreach have you done with the homeless community?

I do outreach alongside the Coalition for the Homeless. They go on routes throughout Manhattan and the Bronx and when they make stops, I talk to people about the new health care options while they are waiting on line. I also meet many people who are homeless at the soup kitchens I visit.

Many of the navigators require you to call and set up an appointment beforehand. How does this work for people who don’t have a phone?

If I meet someone who doesn’t have a phone but wants to get covered, I give them a flyer with information about walk-in hours at a nearby navigator’s office. We try to include walking directions on the flyer, too. This is important, because often it means that the next day they can go and begin to apply.

Are people excited to talk to you about the new health care options?

Yes, a lot of people are interested and very thankful. Many of the people I’ve met have had poor experiences at hospitals in the past, and in some cases emergency room visits are how they have ended up in financial trouble.  Having a plan to protect themselves is very important to them.

What kinds of questions do people ask?

Very often people ask me if they will be able to get health insurance since they already have some kind of illness. I am always happy to tell them that the Affordable Care Act has made it illegal for people to be turned down for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

What message do you hope they walk away knowing?

I want them to know that we care and that this is real. This is a chance for them to get the care they need.

Alongside this outreach, RWV-NY’s Community Organizer Liza Lederer-Plaskett has organized “days of service” where volunteers talk with local soup kitchen attendees. Volunteers distribute flyers about the new health care coverage options available through NY State of Health. Since many New Yorkers speak Spanish, volunteers also distribute Spanish-translated flyers. Bi-lingual volunteers are always on hand to better explain the new marketplace.

As Engracia mentioned, volunteers talk with people who do not have a phone or internet access. They may find themselves unable to call and schedule appointments with navigators. To address this issue, Get Covered New York has developed flyers with walking directions to navigators who have “open, walk-in hours.” Sample flyers can be found here in English and in Spanish.

To contact Liza Lederer-Plaskett about this outreach effort or to get more involved, e-mail liza@raisingwomensvoices.net

Much of the ACA enrollment outreach to young adult “invincibles” has been on the lighter side. Take, for example, the recent Valentine’s Day campaign around national youth enrollment day that featured various celebrities making quips about love and insurance (see the ad featuring Amy Poehler in our February post).  And, months back, we highlighted Colorado’s GotInsurance campaign, which markets health insurance to young adults using “bros,” yoga, and roller derby.

President Obama’s latest education effort has taken an especially comedic turn. The President was a guest on Zach Galifianakis’ Funny or Die web series, “Between Two Ferns,” which is known for its parody of low-budget interview shows and hilariously awkwardly interviews. The video has already gone viral and is trending on twitter. Besides being good for a laugh, the interview turns out to be a decent platform for marketing healthcare.gov and the new insurance options under the ACA, particularly to young adults. Earlier this afternoon, White House Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness tweeted that FunnyorDie.com was the #1 source of referrals to healthcare.gov.

Whether because of the targeted outreach efforts or simply the increased affordability of insurance in the state and federal marketplaces, the rates of uninsured young adults are falling along with those of older adults. According to a recent Gallop poll, the uninsured rate for adults aged 26-34 – likely the primary audience for “Between Two Ferns” - dropped 1.6% points between the end of last year and the first two months of this year. The drop in uninsured was smaller – 0.5% – among 18-25 year-olds, but this group experienced a much more dramatic dip in its uninsurance rate a few years ago. The uninsured rate for these young adults dropped by over 4% in early 2011, when they became eligible to stay on a parent’s insurance plan until age 26. Still, the rates of uninsured young adults remain significantly higher than older populations. Targeted outreach is likely to pick up during these last few weeks of open enrollment.

In the meantime, we have President Obama going out on a limb to pitch the merits of health insurance – of which there are many! – with an unexpected partner in Galifianakis. President Obama’s plug starts at about the halfway point, and one of the best interchanges is at 4:15:

Pres. Obama: “The point is, a lot of young people, they think they’re invincible.”

Galifianakis: “Did you say invisible, because…”

Pres. Obama: “No, no – not invisible. Invincible. Meaning that they don’t think they can get hurt.”

Galifianakis: “I’m just saying that nobody could be invisible…if you had said invisible.”

 

Good point.

 

 

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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.