Last week, Healthcare.gov relaunched its website with a new look and a new focus on providing information related to eligibility and enrollment in the new state health benefit exchanges (or “marketplaces”).
The site now allows you to put in basic information about yourself to find out what types of health insurance programs or savings you may be eligible for come this fall. There is even a live chat function to allow you to ask basic questions about how the Exchange will work and get them answered in real time.
The purpose for this face lift is to get information out to the masses to prepare them for the changes that are coming this fall, and the decisions they will need to make around health insurance starting October 1st.
You can check out the new site at the same URL: www.healthcare.gov (or in Spanish at www.cuidadodesalud.gov). To learn more about the changes made, click here to check out the press release issued by HHS.
Written by guest blogger Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, Director of Health Policy for Children’s Defense Fund-NY and HCFANY Steering Committee Member
In T minus five months, New York State will begin enrollment through its new Health Benefit Exchange. The goal on October 1st, 2013 will be to enroll as many of the 2.6 million uninsured New Yorkers as possible, and eliminate the number of children and youth who are without coverage.
However, the truth is that most New Yorkers don’t understand what health reform entails and many may not have even heard of the Health Benefit Exchange. This is more so for immigrant communities and those with English as a second language. New York prides itself on its diversity, but with rates of uninsurance among racial and ethnic minorities nearly double that of white New Yorkers, getting the word out on the Health Benefit Exchange will need to entail getting the word out in over 175 languages and dialects. 
On Friday, April 26th, HCFANY and NAM co-hosted an informational press briefing geared towards ethnic media to build understanding around the different provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the New York State Health Benefit Exchange, and what’s at stake for New York’s children and youth. Media outlets representing the Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Haitian, Filipino, Russian, and Latino communities attended the event and engaged in a dialogue about what their communities need from the Health Benefit Exchange and fellow advocates in order to guarantee that their populations are ready to enroll come October 1st. Presentations conducted by staff from the New York State Health Benefit Exchange, Community Service Society, Children’s Defense Fund NY, Make the Road NY, and the Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families detailed New York’s progress and plans for ACA implementation, as well as what advocates and stakeholders on the front lines know to be important elements of implementation for children and families in ethnic communities.
We are planning a similar press briefing for ethnic media outlets upstate in the coming months. Think of anyone we should be reaching out to? Please send press contacts to Arianne Slagle at firstname.lastname@example.org
 United States Census 2010.
A couple of months ago, the state-sponsored report (written by our friends at the Center for Popular Democracy) on how to reduce health disparities through the New York Health Benefit was released, outlining a myriad of recommendations culled from a stakeholder meeting held back in September. You can read the Center for Popular Democracy report here.
HCFANY commends the Exchange for its ongoing examination of many issues in regard to health disparities and the Center for Popular Democracy for airing some of the most critical topics in its report. However, we felt that some of the issues touched on in the report require further consideration by the Exchange and that the State needs to take this initiative a step further and reach policy conclusions, set concrete goals, and settle upon a practical mechanism for reaching those goals. Basically, we feel that the State’s implementation of an insurance Exchange is a once in a lifetime shot to make some serious systemic changes that can actually make a difference, and that the State isn’t doing enough to take advantage of this situation. To outline our concerns, HCFANY recently issued a series of comments to the State. You can read our comments here.
Lastly, this past Friday we received a response from the State to our comments. It doesn’t say much other than to acknowledge that they received it. But hey, at least it’s something to get the conversation started, right? You can click here to read the State’s response.
Big changes are coming this October! New York’s Health Benefit Exchange will open, giving uninsured individuals and families a place where they can compare and buy healthcare plans that are quality and affordable. Some will even qualify for tax credits that will make these plans cheaper. Public insurance plans like Medicaid and Child Health Plus will also be available on the Exchange.
But with millions of New Yorkers eligible for coverage through the Exchange, and many of them living in New York City, how can we make sure people get the right information? What type of outreach and enrollment will be happening during the summer and fall months? How can your organization help in this effort?
To find out more, join Health Care for All New York at our New York City briefing on Thursday, March 28th from 9:00-11:30 am (registration and light breakfast at 8:30 am). Speakers will include Rachel Klein from Enroll America and Sara Rothstein from the New York health Benefits Exchange.