Tag: government


CMS Issues Final Marketplace Stabilization Rule


Last week, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued the final Marketplace Stabilization rule to “help lower premiums and stabilize individual and small group markets and increase choices for Americans.” While the rule is designed to help lower premiums and increase the choices consumers will have, some of the policy changes in the rule may potentially impact consumers in a negative way. Below are the key components of the final rule:

2018 Open Enrollment Period: The final rule shortens the annual open enrollment period to November 1, 2017, until December 15, 2017. This is half the duration of open enrollment periods in the past. This shortened window to enroll will result in many consumers potentially missing the opportunity to enroll in coverage and will overwhelm the already limited capacity of organizations providing in-person enrollment assistance. During the 2016 Open Enrollment period for the New York State of Health Marketplace (November 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016), about 74% of consumers enrolled or renewed their coverage with the help of an assistor. Consumers that do not enroll during the open enrollment period will only be able to enroll if they are eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (those eligible for Medicaid, Child Health Plus or the Essential Plan can enroll at any time during the year.)

Special Enrollment Period: Individuals applying outside of open enrollment will be required to provide proof of eligibility for a special enrollment period by submitting supporting documents. This rule aims to reduce fraud and abuse by ensuring that only those who are eligible are able to enroll. Consumers are not currently required to submit proof and this additional documentation burden could result in consumers experiencing delays in their coverage.

Continuous Coverage: The final rule allows insurers to require individuals to pay back past due premiums before enrolling in a plan with the same insurer the following year. Consumers who fell behind in premium payments will have to pay the balance due or they will not be able to enroll in the same coverage, forcing consumers to choose between overcoming a financial burden or being locked out of coverage for the entire year.

Ensuring Additional Choices for Consumers: the final rule allows insurers additional flexibility with the actuarial value of plans so they can offer more plan choices with lower premium options. While at first glance it does seem beneficial to offer greater consumer choice, actuarial value flexibility will allow insurers to offer cheaper plans by removing benefits or increasing out of pocket costs. Consumers may not realize what benefits are not being offered with their plan or what out-of-pocket costs they will be responsible for.

While overall these policy changes may be aimed at increasing choices and lowering costs, a robust education and outreach component should also be included to ensure that consumers understand how these changes may impact their coverage.

State-run marketplaces, like the New York State of Health, do often have more flexibility in establishing some of these policies so it is not entirely clear at this time how this final rule will impact consumers currently enrolled or enrolling in coverage through the New York State of Health Marketplace. HWCLI will continue to follow these changes and provide further updates when additional information is provided by the state.


New York Finalizes $153.1 Billion Budget


Below is a brief overview of some key provisions in New York State’s 2017-2018 Budget that may have an impact on the health and well-being of Long Islanders, especially those living in poverty.

 

Free College Tuition

New York students from families making less than $100,000 a year (which will increase to $125,000 per year by 2019) will be eligible for free tuition at SUNY or CUNY schools under the “Excelsior Scholarship.” The initiative won’t cover room and board and students will have to meet residency, grade point, and class load rules to participate. The program will be phased in over three years and also sets aside $19 million for tuition aid for students attending private colleges. Upon graduating, recipients will have to live and work in New York for several years or the grants will be converted into loans. The state estimates nearly 113,000 families with college age students (55%) on Long Island would be eligible for this program.

 

Community Health Advocates

The CHA program received $3.5 million in funding, which was less than the requested $4.75 million, but more than was allocated in last year’s budget. The Community Health Advocates network provides critical consumers assistance and counseling related to obtaining, utilizing, and resolving issues with all types of health insurance coverage. HWCLI, as well as other Long Island non-profits, has provided services through the CHA network for over 5 years and appreciates NYSDOH’s on-going support in assisting low-income and vulnerable families with navigating health insurance.

 

Legal Aid for Immigrants

The budget includes $10 million for immigrant legal aid efforts, with $4 million set aside specifically to assist New York immigrants at risk for deportation. The funding includes money for the Vera Institute of Justice as well as the New York Immigration Coalition, Empire Justice Center, Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Hispanic Federation and Catholic Charities Community Services. HWCLI applauds the State for providing additional funding for much needed legal services for this extremely vulnerable group. Since 2014, more than 7,800 children have arrived on Long Island from Central and South America to reunite with family after crossing into the United States. To coordinate and convene the work of agencies assisting recently arrived children, HWCLI facilitates efforts between legal, education and social service agencies to provide integrated services, collaborate on advocacy, share best practices, and leverage limited resources- including legal supports and services.

 

Child Care Tax Credit

The final budget amends New York State’s child and dependent care tax credit to increase the tax credit for families earning between $60,000 and $150,000 per year. The benefit for the average household will increase from $169 to $376 and assist more than 200,000 families in offsetting the costs of child and dependent care.

 

Essential Plan

Premiums and co-payments will not increase for those enrolled in the Essential Plan with incomes between 138-150% of FPL as initially proposed by the Governor in the Executive budget. This proposal would have placed additional financial burden on low-income individuals and households making between $16,643 and $18,090 for a household of 1 and between $33,948 and $36,900 for a family of 4.

 

Child Care Subsidies

The final budget cuts funding for child care subsidies for low-income families with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level by $7 million. Currently, 83% of eligible families do not have access to these subsidies because of inadequate funds. It is estimated that the cut will result in an additional 900 families losing their child care subsidy.

 

Enhanced Safety Net Hospitals

The budget allocates $20 million over 2 years to enhanced safety net hospitals, a new category of hospitals that serve low-income New Yorkers. To meet the new criteria, hospitals must show that in any of the last three years at least 50 percent of their patients were uninsured or on Medicaid, at least 40 percent of inpatient discharges were billed to Medicaid and no more than 25 percent of patients had commercial insurance.

 

Farm to Foodbank

The budget includes a new tax credit for farmers who donate fruits, vegetables, and other farm products to local Food Banks- the credit is limited to $5,000 per year but will help farmers offset the harvesting and transportation costs of moving surplus crops that might otherwise go to waste.

 

Click here to read the entire budget.

 

 


HWCLI Announces Selection of New President/CEO


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2017

CONTACT

Bob Detor
Health & Welfare Council of Long Island
(o) 516-505-4434 (c) 516-448-5233
rdetor@hwcli.com

HWCLI Announces Selection of New President/CEO


Melville NY– Health and Welfare Council of Long Island (HWCLI) today announced the appointment of Rebecca Sanin as its President and Chief Executive Officer, effective May 1, 2017.

As President/CEO of HWCLI, Sanin will lead the 70-year old not-for-profit umbrella organization that addresses the interests of at-risk and vulnerable people on Long Island through advocacy, research and policy analysis, direct services, organizing community and regional responses, and support to non-profit agencies.

Sanin joins HWCLI from Suffolk County Government where she has served as Assistant Deputy County Executive since 2012.  Prior to her role in the county, Sanin was the Director of Alliances for Children at the Early Years Institute and the Education Director at Harbor Child Care and has served in a number of roles in the public and nonprofit sector, as well as working as an Adjunct Professor for colleges in our region.

Throughout her career, Sanin has  worked with a wide range of community-based organizations in health and human services, immigration and social justice providing leadership and expertise in advocacy, program development, training, strategic planning, marketing and awareness campaigns, and the development of policies and research.

“I wish Rebecca Sanin continued success as she embarks on her new position as President and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island,” said County Executive Steve Bellone.  “During Rebecca’s tenure with Suffolk County she has made immeasurable contributions to improving the lives of others in addition to working with a team of professionals focused on enhancing government efficiency.  She will serve as great leader of this organization.  I, along with the residents of Suffolk County, thank her for her service.”

Sanin has been a Co-Chair of the Huntington Station Action Coalition Civic Engagement Committee and an Advisory board member of Coordinating Agency for Spanish Americans and a Board member for the Hispanic Counseling Center, a Business Advisory Council member at Molloy College and a Trustee at Evergreen Charter School.  She received a Leadership Award by Long Island Against Domestic Violence in 2016, a Leadership Award by Huntington’s Young Leaders program in 2013, was named Woman of the Year for Civics by the Huntington Times Newspaper in 2010 and received the Leadership Award for Development of  Nonprofit Diversity Programs by the NYS Enterprising and Professional Women’s Association in 2009.

Sanin brings excitement and commitment to her new position: “I am excited about the opportunity to return to the nonprofit sector and expand the work of HWCLI.   I would like to thank the Board for their trust as well as Gwen O’Shea for her decade of service to the most vulnerable families on Long Island. I look forward to working with HWCLI’s board, staff and member organizations to meet the needs of our communities and revitalize and cultivate a sense of public responsibility for policy priorities that directly impact families in our region.” 

HWCLI Chairman Bob Detor says, “The board of directors is thrilled to welcome Rebecca to HWCLI as the President/CEO. She is a talented and experienced professional who brings a personal commitment to advocacy, equity and partnering with communities, organizations and government.  She brings the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to lead HWCLI and the board looks forward to working with Rebecca on responding to the needs of at-risk and vulnerable families and individuals  across Long Island.”

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Tweet Chat: Q&A with CBPP


We partnered up with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on January 27th, 2017, to celebrate EITC Awareness Day through a Q&A Tweet Chat.

CBPP and their Director of Federal Tax Policy, Chuck Marr, answered all of our questions regarding the Earned Income Tax Credit and how it affects low-to-moderate income working individuals.

 


Preparing Taxpayers for Refund Delays


According to a new change in tax law passed by Congress in December 2015, the IRS cannot issue refunds before February 15, 2017 for all tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS must hold the entire refund — not just the portion with the credits — until at least February 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

Many low and middle income families that are eligible for these tax credits rely on filing and receiving their refund as early as possible and often plan to address pressing financial needs with these refunds. Although information is widely available about the refund delay, many households may be surprised by this change which could make them more likely to turn to predatory lenders promising early refunds that are actually payday loans. As advocates, it’s important to spread the word of these changes so taxpayers are aware and can properly prepare, if necessary. Here are some facts and tips to help prepare taxpayers:

  • Taxpayers should go ahead and file as soon as they have all of their tax information. There is no advantage to waiting until closer to February 15.
  • The delay only applies to taxpayers eligible for EITC and/or additional CTC. Tax payers not receiving these credits will receive their refund within normal processing time frames.
  • There are no exceptions. No paid tax preparer can get one of the affected refunds from IRS any faster. Tax payers should be wary of any paid preparer that claims the tax payer can access their refund before February 15
  • Encourage tax payers to plan now for the delay. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a set of tools designed to help individuals, families, and tax preparers deal with dilemmas like mounting bills, responding to debt collectors and effectively planning a schedule to pay outstanding balances
  • Taxpayers should NOT file without the EITC/ACTC just to get withholding back and then later file an amended return to get the credits. Filing an amended return requires additional tax preparation and can take months to process
  • Encourage tax payers to avoid potential predatory preparers and complete their taxes for free through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Households with incomes less that $54,000 in 2016 may be eligible and can call 516-505-4424 for more information or to schedule an appointment

HWCLI’s #Forthe24 Twitter Chat


On October 13, Newsday published an article titled, “LI’s Shrinking Middle Class”, here is an overview:

According to a recent study, 17.8% or 165,758 Long Island households are making more than $184,657 annually.  This is a 60% increase since 1990.
 
While this seems like wonderful news, the study also states an increase in the number of Long Island households earning less than $46,165 a year from 179,879 (21% of all households)  in 1990 to 227,914 (24.4% of all households) in 2014. 
 
What this article re-enforces, is the message we, as a collective having been saying for years. Long Islanders are struggling! It takes almost 2x that amount to survive.
 
The survival budget standard for a family of 4 is approx.$85,000
 
Almost 25% of all Long Island households are experiencing significant daily challenges in meeting the basic human needs of our families- housing, food, clothing, transportation, and health care.
 
Since  the release of this article brought greater visibility to the issue, we were prompted to create a plan of action. A plan of action that continues to bring visibility to the needs of Long Islanders. A plan of action that must include all of Long Island’s elected officials.
 
Join us in HWCLI’s Twitter Chat on November 4th at 1 PM as we ask ourselves and our elected officials what we can do to support the 24%. 
Simply use the #Forthe24 to join the conversation.

twitter-chat-3

How to join:

  • Log on to Twitter
  • Make sure you are following @HWCLI
  • Use the #Forthe24 along with your tweet

Making a difference starts with a conversation!