Monthly Archives: August 2014

“Regional Enrollment Summits” Announced Across New York for this Fall

During the first open enrollment period for new health insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act nearly 1 million New Yorkers signed up for coverage, and over 80% of them were previously uninsured.  That’s great news, and a good advance on lowering New York’s number of uninsured (previously, 2.5 million in 2013.)  For a full report on New York’s success, click here.

color crowd crop

The next open enrollment period begins on this coming November 15th and runs until February 15th.  It will be our next opportunity to sign-up those who are still-uninsured for coverage.  To help everyone get ready for it, advocates and our allies have joined forces to plan a series of “Regional Enrollment Summits” across the state, to bring all stakeholders together to assess what happened previously, and plan for the coming fall and winter.

These events will bring together community leaders and stakeholders to review the first year of outreach and enrollment for health insurance coverage available through New York State of Health, our state’s new health insurance marketplace. Health advocacy groups, navigators, community groups, health care facilities, unions, health plans, and small business representatives are all encouraged to attend.

In our area, two summits will be held in New York City and one on Long Island.  (There may also be one added in the Lower Hudson Valley – watch for further details.)  If your organization or union is focusing on outreach to uninsured New Yorkers and/or helping them to enroll in coverage, we invite you to attend one of them.

Here’s the details about the NYC are summits:

  • Mon. Sept. 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Long Island Summit; at 1199SEIU, 100 Duffy Avenue, Suite 3W, in Hicksville (adjacent to the LIRR train station); registration (by Sept. 18)
  • Tues. Sept. 30, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Brooklyn-Queens-Staten Island Summit; at York College, Faculty Dining Room, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard (south of Archer Ave.), in Jamaica; registration (by Sept. 28)

The agenda for the summits will include:

  • Presentation by “New York State  of Health”, our state’s online health insurance marketplace
  • Panel discussion by groups doing public outreach and enrollment activities
  • Discussion groups to plan share best practices and lessons learned, and plan for the future.

Additional summits across our state include:

  • Fri. Sept. 12, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Capital District Summit; at 1199SEIU, 155 Washington Ave., in Albany; registration
  • Tues. Sep. 30, 1 to 4:30 p.m. – Central New York Summit; at Southern Tier Independence Center, 135 E. Frederick St, in Binghamton; register
  • Thurs. Oct. 2, 9 a.m. to 12 noon – Western New York Summit; at 1199SEIU, 2421 Main Street, in Buffalo; register

Sponsoring groups for the summits include Citizen Action of New York, Community Health Care Association of New York State, Community Service Society of New York, Healthcare Education Project of 1199SEIU/GNYHA, Health Care for All New York, and Raising Women’s Voices-New York.  Additional co-sponsors for each local summit will be solicited.

New Yorkers to Celebrate that “Social Security Works!”

This summer has marks the 49th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid, and the 79th anniversary of Social Security.  All of these programs are all of a piece, and together comprise the bedrock of our nation’s ever-evolving and expanding historic social contract, which most recently added the Affordable Care Act to its scope.  In terms of advocacy, when we support any one of these programs, we support them all, as they are intricately linked to each other, particularly in the minds of the public and voters.

Soc Sec card

With that in mind, health care advocates are joining with senior citizens, disability rights advocates, and union retirees to celebrate the 79th anniversary signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This coming Thursday, August 14, we’ll all be gathering that morning at 11 a.m. outside the NYC District office of the Social Security Administration (SSA), located in Jamaica, Queens, the busiest Social Security office in the country, located at 155-10 Jamaica Avenue (at Parsons Ave.)  (See our action alert invite here, with all the details.)

We’ll be talking about what Social Security means for New York.  About 3.5 million New Yorkers and their families receive benefits from Social Security, including 1.1 million in New York City.  Statewide, beneficiaries include 2.3 million retirees, 520,000 people with disabilities, 421,000 surviving spouses, and 258,000 children.  The program also pumps over $50 billion annually into New York’s economy, and together with Medicare, keeps 1.2 million New Yorkers out of poverty.  (You can read the latest report from Social Security Works about all the ways New Yorkers benefit from it.)

We’ll also be refuting some of the BIG LIES that opponents of government social programs like to tell.  Social Security is NOT going broke!  In fact, it is fully solvent for another 20 years.  Also, Social Security has not contributed one penny to the federal budget deficit.  It has its own Trust Fund that is funded by a dedicated tax from contributions taken out of every workers’ paycheck.

We’ll be calling on Congress to rectify the crisis of recent local Social Security office closures and in-person service cutbacks resulting from budget cuts.  Since 2011, seven local Social Security Administration offices across New York City have been closed because of budget cutbacks, including in Astoria, Chinatown, East New York, Glendale, Midtown Manhattan, South Bronx, and Williamsburg.  Meanwhile, the number of people on Social Security will double in the next 20 years.  In addition, the Social Security Administration is shifting some services solely to online modalities, creating barriers to necessary services for New Yorkers who are not internet literate or do not have regular internet access.  New York’s Senator Charles Schumer has recently introduced a bill to address this problem (S.2742), and a similar bill (H.R.3997) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo.

There are also bills in Congress to improve and expand Social Security:

  • The “Strengthen Social Security Act” (S.567, H.R.3118), introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Linda Sanchez would raise the minimum base benefit, remove the cap on income subject to FICA taxes so that the wealthy pay their fair share just like the rest of us, and change the basis of the formula used to calculate the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to more accurately reflect the spending needs of older people and people with disabilities, particularly when it comes to health care.  (You can read the ARA fact sheet here.)
  • The Retirement and Income Security Enhancement (RAISE) Act (S.2455), introduced by Senators Mark Begich and Patty Murray, would enhance Social Security benefits for widow(er)s and divorced spouses while extending benefit eligibility for children of retired, disabled, and deceased workers.  (You can read the ARA Fact Sheet here.)

We are collaborating on this event with the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), and Local 3369 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) which represents SSA workers at that office. AFGE’s “Save Our Social Security” campaign is encouraging their members to resist office closures and in-person service cutbacks.

Our event here in NYC will be part of several similar events taking place across New York State being organized by the Restore the American Promise (RAP) campaign.  Additional events will be taking place across the country, coordinated by ARA, AFGE, and Social Security Works.  We’ll be having party hats and cupcakes, and have invited some local members of Congress from the Queens too.  Please join us!