Groups help Bronxites navigate health care red tape

Lincoln Hospital is offering free assistance for residents confused about what health insurance they may be eligible to receive.

Organizations train to advise public about changing policies

Your friend tells you he’s looking forward to Medicare’s yearly open enrollment period so he can sign up for Part B, since he missed his initial enrollment period. What should you say?

This hypothetical situation was presented at NYC Health + Hospital’s Health Insurance 101 Workshop at Lincoln Hospital. The answer to this question—which is you’ll need to wait until the next general enrollment period—and many more about obtaining and managing health insurance, were addressed in full.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln Hospital tapped Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collaborate on a detailed training for community members and leaders to master the upcoming enrollment periods for Medicare and New York State of Health. Most of the 50-plus participants attended in an effort to become a knowledgeable liaison for members of their respective organizations.

This was the case for Robin Sabater, who attended on behalf of Phipps Houses, a South Bronx staple for affordable housing and accessing social services.

“I need to be able to gather information for clients so they can be informed about new Medicare changes,” she said.

Other guests like Dr. Lawrence Bailey had personal motives for learning to navigate the insurance behemoth. The Harlem dentist was adamant about “demystifying Medicare” for his father, who’s in his 90s, as well as for himself in the coming years.

“I want to be a sponge, gathering as much information as I can for myself, family, friends and everyone else I know,” he said.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services lined up presentations throughout the day aiming to clarify the nation’s confusing and evolving public health care system. Speakers touched on 2018 Medicare updates for parts A, B, C and D, Medicaid programs, health reform initiatives and guidance on selecting and purchasing affordable plans.

Residents who would like assistance in the insurance selection process are encouraged to make an appointment with a certified application counselor at Lincoln Hospital, free of charge. The staff helps people understand and select the ideal insurance package for themselves and their families, be it Medicare or another program like Child Health Plus or Essential Health.   

The next open enrollment period for New York State of Health, when residents will be able to change their insurance plan or enroll in health insurance for the first time, runs from November 1, 2017 through Janurary 31, 2018. Medicare open enrollment is open now and will end December 7, 2017.

One important takeaway according to organizers: If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask.

“If you feel you’re not paying the right amount or know someone who might not be paying the right amount, just ask,” urged speaker Hira Mirza. “It’s not a stupid question.”