New Laws Improve Minority Healthcare

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

It is not always an easy feat to walk into a doctor’s office expecting to receive affordable health care, especially as a minority.

Roger Milliner, deputy executive director of marketing for MetroPlus Health Plan, said they have been working hard to provide great access to healthcare to minorities living across the City.

For minorities, the Affordable Care Act is an opportunity to provide access to healthcare for minorities living in low income neighborhoods across the four Boroughs, excluding Staten Island, Milliner said.

“By people signing up to get health insurance, we are opening up an avenue for them to access providers and specialists that they may have not had access to in the past,” he said.

MetroPlus Health Plan offers low to no-cost health insurance to eligible people living in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. It has partnered with the City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation to provide primary and preventive care.

Of the one million that already signed up for health insurance through the New York State Marketplace, Milliner said 70 percent of them did not have insurance coming into the exchange.

“This shows a lot of people were not insured, which causes people to go to the doctor less because they did not have the means to pay for it,” he said.

In years past, Milliner said many undocumented immigrants have been reluctant to visit a doctor, but have no choice to go to the emergency room, where they would be limited to providers and proper healthcare.

Through the ACA, all policies now require patients to receive 10 essential health benefits, Milliner said, that gives everyone access and a peace of mind when it comes to their health.

By enrolling for a health policy with the ACA, Milliner said every patient receives benefits that were not provided in the past, including ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn born care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services for chronic disease management and pediatric services.

Milliner said the new healthcare laws allow people to stay on the same health insurance for longer, thus preventing people from falling ill.

As for the many misunderstandings that arose with the implementation of the ACA, Milliner said more and more people understand the healthcare law better, especially minorities.

“If you look at last year compared to more recent months, a lot more minorities have become knowledgeable about the nuances about the enrollment process because when you have almost a million people enrolled, they are talking to other people who have it,” he said.

As the enrollment period to sign up for the Affordable Care Act ended on March 31, Milliner said it is vital for those who did not sign up yet, to try and sign up during the extended period through April 15.

Milliner said those looking to apply during the extended period must attest to the New York State Marketplace that they tried to apply for health insurance, but were not able to enroll through no fault of their own. Another way to apply for health insurance past the deadline is to qualify for a life-changing event, Milliner said.

For more information about the Marketplace or MetroPlus Health Plan, call their customer service line from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week at 1 (800) 475-6387.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.