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Know Your Rights
Source: HCFANY
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Health Care Advocates Call on Governor-Elect and Legislature to Ensure Quality and Affordability When Creating New Health Insurance Exchange

Albany, NY – Health Care for All New York (HCFANY), the largest health care consumer coalition in the state, announced today a new set of standards to ensure that the new federal health care law, passed in March, provides quality, affordable health care for New York consumers. HCFANY will use these standards to measure the legislative proposals submitted by the Governor and legislators next year to implement the new law.

"Governor-Elect Cuomo and the State Legislature have a great opportunity and obligation to implement the Affordable Care Act effective so that the maximum number of people are covered and that all New Yorkers receive quality, affordable health care," said Jessica Wisneski, Legislative Director of Health Care for All New York and Chair of the Health Care for All New York Steering Committee. "But not just any health insurance exchange will do. The Legislature must pass a law next year that will set up an exchange that works for New York’s working families. The need for health security is more important now than ever health care costs skyrocket and unemployment remains at extremely high levels."

The state exchanges set up under the new law will act as government-sponsored marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to purchase health coverage. For New York to effectively comply with the new federal health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Governor and Legislature will need to pass legislation that creates an insurance exchange in the 2011 session. Under federal law, the exchange must go into operation by January 1, 2014.

The HCFANY standards provide for an exchange that:

-is statewide and serves everyone throughout the state;
-provides for quality and affordable benefit packages;
-is easy for consumers to navigate and represents consumer interests;
-builds on the success of New York’s already existing public programs, including Family Health Plus and Medicaid; and incorporates principles of health equity based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, and immigration status.

Lenin Juca, a member of Make the Road New York and owner of Oxium Copy and Print Center, a business in Jackson Heights, Queens, said "It is essential that small businesses are given bargaining power to access affordable coverage for themselves and their employees. It is also important that exchanges support principles of health equity since there is a disparity among those employers who have the means of offering insurance to their employees and those that don’t. No one should be left out, and everyone deserves access to the same care regardless of their background."

Eesha Pandit, Director of Advocacy with Raising Women’s Voices, said, "Because women are often the ones who arrange and manage health care for our families, we know that New York’s insurance exchange must provide easy consumer access to health insurance that is affordable for family budgets and covers the services we need. Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need is proud to endorse the HCFANY standards, which provide a roadmap for making the promise of health reform a reality in New York."

According to HCFANY, an effective exchange will provide for broad pooling of insurance purchases by individuals and small groups and aggressively negotiate with insurers, thereby providing affordable coverage and providing for more choices for consumers and small businesses. The HCFANY standards also call for provisions like standardized enrollment information to maximize the number of New Yorkers who are covered and enable consumers to make informed choices as to their health plans.

"New York State has been a leader in adopting consumer protections that make health coverage more comprehensive and affordable," said Elisabeth Benjamin of Health Care for All New York and Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society. "Our standards outline ways for New York to continue that tradition by creating a strong, consumer-focused Exchange."