Dear Gov. Cuomo & Legislature: You’ve Got Mail!

You've got mail!

HCFANY is happy to report that our letter to Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature on the budget’s elimination of the Family Health Plus program and out-of-network benefits on the individual market has been delivered!

The letter was actually hand-delivered around the capitol early this afternoon, and sent out to the press shortly thereafter.  Thanks to everyone who signed on – at final count we had 37 groups listed!  You can view the final letter sent by clicking here.

It looks like the budget will be closing down this weekend, but there is still time to make phone calls!  Call your legislators today and tell them to protect low-income families and New Yorkers with special health needs by providing a solution to the elimination of the Family Health Plus program that would treat all consumers equally, regardless of family composition, and provide additional subsidies to all eligible consumers up to 150% of FPL, and to preserve the requirement that insurers offer consumers on the individual market the option of out-of network care.

We can do this!!!


Yes folks, it's the Hoover Dam!

A press release issued by Governor Cuomo’s office yesterday announced that New Yorkers will save over $500 million on health insurance premiums this year thanks to the Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) utilization of the State’s prior approval law.  As you may remember, New York’s 2010 prior approval law allows DFS officials to review insurance rate increases before they go into effect and scale them back if they are too high.

Health insurers had requested overall increases averaging around 12.4%, which were then cut down to an average of 7.5% by DFS.  Rate increases for small group plans will increase an average of 9.5%, down from the average 15.7% increase requested by the insurance plans.  Prior to passage of the prior approval law, annual premium rate increases averaged 14%.

These modest increases stand out at a time when many states are experiencing double-digit increases in premiums.  For example, an article in Saturday’s New York Times notes that states like Florida and Ohio have seen rates rise by as much as 20%, with similar rate increases proposed in California.

The Affordable Care Act requires states to review any proposed rate increases above 10%, however New York is one of 37 states which allows state officials to deny excessive rate increases (an issue that is explored further in the Times article).

So, thanks again to our Senate Democrats who really championed this issue back in 2010 and made savings like this possible today.  We appreciate the work you do!!!

See below for a breakdown of the average requested rate increase and what the DFS ended up actually approving.  For the full list of increases by insurance plans, see the Governor’s press release.


Health Insurance Market Segment
Total Number
of Members Affected
Requested Annual Rate Increase (Weighted Average)
Approved Annual Rate Increase (Weighted Average)
Reduction by DFS
Individual, direct-pay
Small Group
Large Group
Medicare Supplement

Click here to read the Governor’s press release.

Click here to read the NYTimes article, titled “Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits.”



They say you should love thy neighbor but that you shouldn’t covet thy neighbor’s wife – but what about coveting thy neighbor’s State Senate?

New Jersey’s legislature was set to vote today on a bill authorizing a health insurance exchange for that state (New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act (S-1319/A-2171)).  And, from what this blogger hears, the bill is actually pretty decent.

No word yet on whether it passed or not, and even still it’s not clear if Governor Christie will even sign it.  But, gosh darn it, isn’t it nice to see somebody taking action on this?

And by “somebody,” I mean the New Jersey legislature.  BOTH houses! Working in unison.  For the goodness of New Jersey and it’s many residents who live and die by the decisions made by their government.

Must be nice…

Well, hope is not entirely lost here in NY.  Even though our State Senate ignored the pleas of everyday New Yorkers and did not put Exchange legislation in their one house budget bill, our State Assembly did.  And, as far as we know, our own Governor Cuomo is still supportive of a NY Exchange.  Afterall, he did list it as a priority in his State of the State address just a few months ago.

Actually, now might be a good time to drop a line to Governor Cuomo and just encourage him to stand strong on this issue.  New Yorkers really need help with health insurance costs, and a NY health insurance Exchange will provide just that.  Give his office a ring at: (518) 474-8390

Or, email him via the web at: 

Let him know that New York is still counting on him to be our knight in shining armor!



Yesterday, the NYS Senate released a letter written by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) responding to Senate Minority Leader John Sampson’s (D) request that the Senate bring health insurance exchange legislation on to the floor.

Last year, New York’s exchange bill passed in the House, but never came to a vote in the Senate.  At the time, Skelos had said that the Senate didn’t want to be seen as buying into “Obamacare.”

In yesterday’s letter, Skelos again pushed back.  He gives several rationales for this.

One is a study that estimates the ACA could cost NY more than $65 billion for the Medicaid portion.  The study he is referring to is from the conservative CATO Institute, and bases its numbers on people currently eligible for Medicaid, but not enrolled (the $65 billion number is supposed to reflect the total over 10 years). The idea is that the ACA’s individual mandate will prompt these folks to take up coverage they are already eligible for.  Of course, CATO doesn’t dwell on the fact that these folks are free to enroll at any time, regardless of the ACA.  In fact, the State already invests millions each year to boost enrollment among children and families eligible for Medicaid.  Why? Because Medicaid is a cheap and efficient way to get people good health coverage, and the cost is split with the federal government.  Its not clear why NY’s Senate Majority Leader would balk at the idea of actually fulfilling one of the State’s long-standing public health goals.

He also says that NY didn’t miss out on any cash by not passing a bill last year, perhaps implying that this will also be the case if we don’t this year either.  Unfortunately, this is wrong.  At this point, NY has received about $87 million under the ACA.  But it’s eligible to get much more – provided it has exchange legislation in place by June 29, 2012.  That deadline is as clear as day in the Grant application language. The amount is based on our state needs, which means a potential of hundreds of millions that will be lost if the Senate does not act.

There’s a couple of other reasons given, neither of which are any stronger. Lack of guidance on the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) is one.  Yes, the State is still awaiting further guidance on that, but the comments submitted by the State on the EHB bulletin in no way indicate that the adoption of an exchange bill should hinge upon this issue.

Lastly, Skelos says it’s ok for NY to wait because HHS Secretary Sebelius recently said that it’s “appropriate” for us to do so.  This is true, Sebelius did say this back in December.  However, Secretary Sebelius did not choose to comment on the “appropriateness” of the consequences New Yorkers would face if we wait too long.   Namely, missing out on millions in federal funds and having to pay to for an exchange out of state coffers if we so, or having to default to a one-size-fits-all federal exchange.

The truth of the matter is that New Yorkers simply can’t afford to wait.  Health insurance on NY’s direct-pay market is now tipping past $12,000 per year for individuals and $24,000 per year for a family.  This is just too expensive for normal folks.  At the same time, the rate of employer-offered insurance continues to decline and every year the number of uninsured New Yorkers goes up.  An insurance exchange will lower the rate of uninsurance by over 1 million, is estimated to bring down costs in the direct-pay market by 66%, and to lower small business costs by 22%.  These aren’t just abstract numbers – this is food on the table.  A full tank of gas.  An electric bill that is no longer in arrears.

Senator Skelos’ letter is disappointing to read, but hopefully it does not reflect the intent of the entire Senate majority.  New York needs strong leaders who will look past partisan divides and work together to do what’s right for the state.  Time is running short.  Let’s hope the Senate comes through for New York.

Click here to read Senate Majority Leader Skelos’ letter on NY’s exchange legislation

 Also, here is the letter from Senate Minority Leader Sampson that he was responding to.