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Op-Ed: The clock is ticking, Queens! Re-enroll in health insurance now

Aug. 10, 2023 By Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas and New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of health insurance in New York state into sharp focus. Millions of New Yorkers signed up for a low-cost state insurance plan and never had to re-enroll as a result of the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency declaration. With the COVID emergency now over, New Yorkers enrolled in these low-cost state insurance plans need to act now or lose their coverage.

Fortunately, the State Health Department and its partners are here to help. If you are contacted about re-enrolling, don’t put it off – the clock is ticking.

Queens residents have absorbed more than their share of pain due to COVID. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the borough has lost almost 14,000 residents to the virus and counted 873,000 cases. Corona, Queens, was known as the epicenter of the epicenter, and each day health care professionals responded to the call to action and saved our neighbors’ lives.

As part of its pandemic response, the White House declared a public health emergency, allowing Americans to automatically remain enrolled in healthcare coverage without having to renew their applications each year. This federal declaration and New York’s response to take every federal flexibility available to maximize coverage for consumers led to an increase in the number of insured New Yorkers, which in turn has led to better health outcomes.

With the public health emergency over, we need to keep people insured by re-enrolling them in Medicaid, the Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus, the state’s low-cost insurance plans. Make sure you’re checking your mail for your renewal notice, because enrollees will have at least 30 days from their notices to prevent loss of coverage. If you’ve changed your address or contact information since 2020, you should also make sure to update it with the New York State Department of Health or the New York City Human Resources Administration.

The good news is that so far, New York state is on the right track. According to a study by KFF, New York’s renewal rate is 72%, which is significantly higher than the national average of 59%, as of June 30, 2023. This is in large part due to the New York State Department of Health’s strategies, including a public education campaign, paid advertising, and the option to receive text notifications about renewals (it only takes 30 seconds to sign up!). Because Queens is the world’s borough, the campaign website is available in fourteen languages.

But we need your help to keep these re-enrollments up. Here in Queens, approximately 29% of eligible residents due to renew in June 2023 have yet to re-enroll in any of the state’s plans. We know that as New Yorkers, our public health outcomes are inextricably linked to having insurance. So, the next time you’re talking to family, friends, and neighbors, make sure to ask them if they’ve renewed their healthcare coverage and, if not, share the resources below with them. Everyone deserves access to quality and consistent healthcare coverage.

We also have great community-based organizations and partners ready to assist you. Organizations like Make the Road NY and Voces Latinas in Jackson Heights and Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities, Inc in Corona are available to help community members re-enroll in health coverage and can assist you in languages other than English. If you’re an organization or library in the community, you can also host a satellite on-site health assistor as well.

For more information or questions about redeterminations and the renewal process, please reach out to the NY State of Health Customer Service Center at 1-855-355-5777. You can also learn more on NY State of Health and the Department of Health’s Medicaid website. Both sites are updated regularly.

The last three years have undoubtedly been difficult for New Yorkers. But in the worst of crises, we continue to work with and support each other as neighbors. As New York faces a current uptick in COVID-19 cases, there’s even more urgency for New Yorkers to remain insured. Spread the word. The clock is ticking, Queens.

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