Acting Health Commissioner Plugs Plan for Access to Health Insurance

ALBANY, March, 9 2007 - Acting New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. today called for enactment of a plan to cut New York's uninsured population in half over the next four years. The plan, included as part of the proposed state budget, would expand access to health insurance to 400,000 uninsured children by increasing the State's Child Health Plus program and simplifying Medicaid rules to reach both uninsured children and the 900,000 uninsured adults who are currently eligible for coverage.

"By expanding the Child Health Plus Program and removing bureaucratic hurdles that keep eligible New Yorkers from getting on and staying on Medicaid, we will be able to cut New York's 2.6 million uninsured population in half over the next four years," said Dr. Daines.

Dr. Daines testified about increasing access to health care insurance Friday at a hearing held by the Assembly Health, Insurance and Labor committees.

In his testimony, Dr. Daines noted that the proposed state budget would expand Child Health Plus to cover kids in families up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, with co-premiums based on a sliding scale. "Our plan ensures that every family in New York will be able to provide their children with the health insurance they need," he said.

"There is a direct correlation between the ease of application and enrollment procedures and participation in health insurance programs," Dr. Daines testified before a joint Assembly committee hearing. "That is why the Department is undertaking a top-to-bottom review of the enrollment and renewal requirements for these insurance programs and seeks to implement measures that make it easier for eligible families to obtain and maintain coverage."

Increased access to Medicaid will allow more individuals to receive primary and preventative care and reduce reliance on expensive hospital care, a goal that will also be reached for children with increased access to Child Health Plus, which would provide health insurance to virtually every child in the State. Both actions will ultimately result in saving the State hundreds of millions of dollars from reduced charity care in emergency rooms, said Dr. Daines.

"Ultimately," he said, "the State will develop a plan for affordable, universal health insurance for all New Yorkers. However, unless we first restructure our health care delivery system to lower health care costs we will force an undue burden on families, businesses and government to cover the cost of universal coverage."

As one way of increasing the accessibility to public health insurance programs, Dr. Daines said the Department is exploring ways to streamline and simplify guidelines and also apply uniform benchmarks to the Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus programs. "For example, currently 21 different income eligibility categories apply to these programs," he said.

Dr. Daines' testimony can be viewed at: www.health.ny.gov/commissioner/testimony/2007-03-09_health_insurance_coverage.htm.