What we set out to do…
With the passage of the federal health reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), much of the work of implementing it shifted to the States. How the law will be implemented in New York will grealy affect how consumers are impacted, and how beneficial the changes will be.
With this in mind, HCFANY’s agenda for 2011-2012 largely focused on implementation of the ACA in New York. This included :
- Responding to federal regulations on insurance reforms and consumer protections (click on this page and scroll down to read ”HCFANY’s Two Cents”);
- Providing input on the design and implementation of an active state-based health insurance Exchange;
- Defending New York’s strong public insurance and safety-net programs;
- Educating the policymakers and the public to strengthen grassroots support and understanding of the ACA;
- Working to ensure that implementation of the ACA in New York meets the needs of immigrants, women, people with disabilities, and people of color;
- Challenging proposed health insurance rate increases under the newly reinstated prior approval process. This includes submitting letters in opposition to proposed rate increases, determining if rate increases can be justified (will require us to obtain insurer memos currently not public), and monitoring the prior approval process.
- Work to ensure that quality, affordable health care is available to all New Yorkers.
In addition, we continued to advocate and educate on important health reform issues and policies that affect New Yorkers around the state.
What we were able to accomplish…
2011 turned out to be a memorable year for health reform. Granted, it wasn’t all pretty. We didn’t get a New York State insurance exchange. But, overall, New York did take great strides towards meeting HCFANY’s goals. Here’s just a quick recap to reminisce on what happened in 2011…
HCFANY Year in Review – 2011
Winter: Gearing up for lively year of health reform implementation
- The Year started with an attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by House Republicans, which set the political stage in Washington. H.R. 2 passed in the House and was offered as an amendment to an unrelated bill in the Senate, where it was subsequently voted down.
- The first phase of the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) created by Governor Cuomo to conduct a comprehensive examination of NY’s Medicaid system set off with a series of public hearings around the sate on a package of proposals. A surprise vote by the MRT passed a modified package of proposals amounting to $2.3 billion in Medicaid cuts, and left many advocates crying foul. Four members of the MRT (including Lara Kassel of Medicaid Matters) abstained from the vote on the grounds that that it was grossly premature. The proposals were included in the budget through the Governor’s 30-day amendments.
Springtime: Birthday Cake and Budget Cuts
- In March, HCFANY celebrated the one-year anniversary of the ACA (with cake!) through a series of events around the state with local partners. We also hosted a successful advocacy day in Albany which kicked off with a press conference attended by Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-21) and several New Yorkers who offered their own stories on how they’ve already been helped by health reform.
- At the end of March, the state Legislature passed the State budget an entire day before it was actually due (!!!). The budget implemented the majority of recommendations passed by the Medicaid Redesign Team(many of which HCFANY did not support), including a global cap of 4% in the year-to-year growth of Medicaid spending, and a maximum of $15.3 billion on Medicaid expenditures.
Summertime and the Ever-Elusive Insurance Exchange
- HCFANY worked tirelessly this year to try to get an Exchange bill passed – and not just any bill, but a bill that includes strong consumer representation and protections. The State held a series of public hearings on this in May and, after much anticipation, the Senate and the Governor’s office released their proposed bills in mid-June. The Governor’s bill was definitely the better bill by HCFANY’s standards, and late in June a three-way deal was struck and the bill passed easily in the Assembly. It looked like New York was well underway to getting its Exchange when…
- At the end of June, the State Senate adjourned before bringing the Exchange bill to a vote. The Senate was rumored to return for a special clean-up session for months, but in the end, New York’s consumers were left hanging.
- Summertime brought with it the release of many of the proposed federal rules and regulations under the ACA, and HCFANY did it’s darnedest to submit comments on as many as it could. This included comments on the proposed Exchange regs, on the premium tax provisions, Medicaid and eligibility changes, and Exchange standards for employers.
Fall: Rate Review Gets HCFANY’s Attention, and HCFANY Gets the National Media’s Attention
- In the fall, HCFANY’s attention turned to the health insurance rate-review process. Having just gotten the rate review process reinstated last year, we were eager to do what we could to help New Yorkers get involved in this process. But, we found that insurers weren’t posting their rate increase justification memos, which made it pretty hard for consumers to provide meaningful feedback. We worked to make this information available and the insurance industry pushed back – garnering multiple HCFANY mentions in the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. In the end, HCFANY won the fight and the insurers agreed to post the information on the Department of Financial Services (formerly the NYS Insurance Department) website.
- HCFANY also joined in on the Occupy Wall Street movement by visting Zucotti park to support and talk to protesters about health care and by joining in on several Healthcare for the 99% solidarity marches.
- In November, New Yorkers learned again that they would be benefiting from the insurance rate-review process when the state announced that many would be receiving refunds totaling $114.5 million after 11 health plans were found to have overcharged people for health insurance premiums in 2010.
- The second phase of the MRT culminated in mid-December to finalize recommendations made by the several workgroups. The Health Disparities Workgroup in particular did much to advance HCFANY’s equity agenda. This included recommendations to streamline and improve access to Emergency Medicaid, language access services, to improve data collection efforts, and to reform the state’s distribution of charity care funding to hospitals.
- The year ended on a high note, with the federal government’s announcement that approximately 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance in the past year since the dependent coverage expansion up to age 26 took effect under the Affordable Care Act.