Advocates gather to advance better health care for children, youth, and families

14060_lores_womanchild HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force gathered in Albany on Wednesday, December 11th to share updates about several key issues. Over 30 task force members were there, from consumer advocacy organizations, Navigator networks, and other organizations dedicated to the health of children and families. Here’s a rundown of the meeting highlights:

Judy Arnold from the New York State Department of Health spoke for nearly an hour, sharing numerous updates and answering questions about the New York State of Health marketplace. She is truly a fount of information! She let us know that over 100,000 have enrolled through the marketplace since October, including about 30,000 in Medicaid (Medicaid numbers are still being finalized). Soon, the State will be able to provide data on demographics of enrollees, which will be especially exciting to anyone in the health care advocacy world. With the rush to enroll before the December deadline, the State’s help line has been experiencing extremely high call volume – about 1,500 calls per hour – so the State is working on some changes to meet the demand (that’s a lot of New Yorkers seeking affordable health insurance!).

Lara Kassel from Medicaid Matters New York (MMNY) gave an update on the joint MMNY and HCFANY Public Programs Work Group. The group recently met with representatives from the New York State of Health to discuss priority issues, from making sure undocumented immigrants are able to enroll in emergency Medicaid through the marketplace website to ensuring continuing education and training for Navigators.

Bridget Walsh from the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy gave an update on the “foster kids” provision in the ACA. The provision allows young adults who were formerly in foster care to stay on Medicaid up to age 26 (mirroring the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance). We got a sneak peak of a video made by a former foster youth that SCAA will soon post on their website, where you can already find great resources about this issue.

Kate Breslin, also from SCAA, gave a brief update on the Basic Health Program option in New York State. HCFANY recently submitted a letter on behalf of over 50 organizations around the state urging Governor Cuomo to include a Basic Health Program in his 2014 budget. You can read the final letter here.

Lorraine Gonzalez from Children’s Defense Fund – New York talked about School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) and explored the financial sustainability of these important community resources in light of Medicaid redesign – which changes the reimbursement process for SBHCs – and new funding opportunities for SBHCs in the ACA. CDF’s full report with recommendations on this issue is set to be released in January.

Our next chance to convene is right around the corner! We’ll have a Children, Youth, & Families Task Force breakout session at the HCFANY annual meeting on January 9th in Albany. Register here for the meeting, and we’ll see you there!

Rocking out in the rain at Mamapalooza

Today’s post comes from guest blogger Lois Uttley, of Raising Women’s Voices

Do you know somebody who needs health insurance?”

That was the conversation starter at the Health Care for All New York booth Sunday at the annual Mamapalooza festival in South Riverside Park, along Manhattan’s Hudson River waterfront.  “Yes, me!” was often the answer from the Moms (and Dads) stopping by the booth.

Raising Women’s Voices-New York staffers Lois Uttley and Aliza Lederer-Plaskett and intern Nina Nnamani teamed up with Lorraine Gonzalez of the Children’s Defense Fund-New York to staff the HCFANY booth. While the rainy weather dampened attendance, many of those present expressed surprise and excitement when HCFANY representatives explained the new health insurance options becoming available this October through the New York State Health Benefits Exchange.

“I’m a small business owner, and I just can’t afford health insurance for me and my employees,” explained one woman who wandered over from one of the booths offering products appealing to Moms and families. She was thrilled to hear about the new, more affordable health coverage that will be available to small employers when the state Exchange opens for enrollment on October 1.

HCFANY member organizations, including Raising Women’s Voices-NY, will be out and about at various community festivals this spring and summer, working to raise awareness about the new health coverage that will be available for individuals, families and small employers. Would you like Raising Women’s Voices or another HCFANY member organization to come to your event? If so, contact


Talk to me!
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. [1]

However, have no fear!  Health Care for All New York’s (HCFANY) Children Youth and Families Task Force is on the case with the support of New America Media (NAM).

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.

To view photos from this event, please click here.

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

[1] United States Census 2010.

For you!

A lot of folks think that 2014 is when the Affordable Care Act will really kick into effect, and yes, that is when the health insurance Exchanges will become fully operational.  And yes, those are a big part of the ACA.  But, they’re not the whole thing!

Many great things have already happened in the years since the law was implemented, including small business tax credits, a new coverage option for uninsured folks with pre-existing conditions, free preventive care, and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26.

And, 2013 will be no exception! There are more good things in store for us this year.  Here is a roundup of some of what’s to come:

  • More subsidies for seniors who hit the donut hole:  Seniors who hit the Medicare Part D coverage gap will now get federal subsidies for brand-name prescriptions (in addition to the 50% manufacturer brand-name discount that went into effect in 2011).
  • Improving Preventive Care:  State Medicaid programs that offer free or low cost preventive services will get increased federal funding to do so.  This means that low-income folks in many states will have better access to vaccinations, tests like colonoscopies and mammograms and routine screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.
  • Increased Medicaid payments to doctors: On January 1st, Medicaid payments for primary care doctors were brought up to Medicare levels. In New York, this will mean an estimated increase of 156% in Medicaid payments to doctors and will help to ensure low-income New Yorkers have sufficient access to doctors.  For more info on this, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation report titled, “How Much Will Medicaid Physician Fees for Primary Care Rise in 2013? Evidence from a 2012 Survey of Medicaid Physician Fees”
  • CHIP funding will be extended: the ACA will authorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2015 (extended from 2013).  In New York, this program is called Child Health Plus. This will allow roughly 400,000 kids in New York to keep their free or low-cost health insurance.

Of course, not all of the ACA changes happening in 2013 will be a clear-cut “goody.”  2013 will also see a number of tax changes, including an increase in Medicare taxes for higher income earners (in order to boost up the Medicare trust), an exise tax of 2.3% on the sale of medical devices, and changes to FSA limits.  For a full list of changes, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Implementation timeline.