BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Since Oct. 1, changes to the healthcare system have been on the minds of many concerned citizens of Queens. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) organized a forum to explain the Affordable Care Act.
The informational seminar was held on Oct. 15 at the Elmhurst Hospital auditorium, in conjunction with healthcare professionals and local elected officials.
An attendee at the forum, Tullock Elena, 69, of Corona, said forums like these are very informative.
“I am planning to switch my insurance plan and the information given today was very detailed,” she said.
“With the health insurance exchanges up and running, it is imperative that Queens residents know how to navigate through this new Marketplace, so those in need of coverage can select a plan that best fits their needs,” Meng said. “I was happy to sponsor this important forum and look forward to holding more so that all the people of Queens can finally have access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage.”
Alice Yaker, director of community outreach for the New York State of Health, said nearly 2.7 million New Yorkers under the age of 65, about 16 percent, do not have health insurance coverage. That number includes primarily workers and their families.
Yaker said this is an extraordinary moment for all of us because “we know that when someone has insurance, they have greater access to health services, which leads to better health outcomes.”
Yvette Martinez, associate state director for New York’s AARP, said “if you have Medicare or Medicaid, you do not need to do anything.”
Instead, she said the new law strengthens Medicare by including more preventive benefits and lowering the price of prescription drugs. She also denied the myth that the ACA will increase the costs of Medicare.
The goal over the course of the next three years, Yaker said is to enroll 1.1 million New Yorkers into health plans.
Since open enrollment began on Oct. 1, Yaker said the New York State of Health Marketplace website has seen four million unique page views and 614,000 unique visitors.
The Marketplace website allows for a one-stop shopping for subsidized and unsubsidized healthcare plans. It also allows people seeking insurance to easily compare health plan options, while being reassured that they will not be denied on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
“It is a place for individuals and small businesses to enroll into a health plan that meets your medical needs, the kinds of benefits you are looking for, and what your pocket books will allow you to do,” Yaker said.
She said individuals will have the option to shop outside of the Marketplace for a health plan, but no financial subsidizes will be available.
Yaker said only about 17,000 New Yorkers are enrolled into their own health plans, not affiliated with their employers. That number will rise because healthcare premiums rates will be reduced by 53 percent.
About 75 percent of individuals who enroll through the New York State of Health will qualify for tax credits to help them pay for coverage.
For more information about the health care law, or to enroll in a health coverage plan, visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PlansMap, or to speak to a Navigator, call (855) 355-5777.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.