Helping the Uninsured Connect to the New, Affordable Health Care Options

Posted March, 25 2014 by Amanda

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


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