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NYFAHC Report on Connecting Immigrants to Commercial Health Coverage In New York

NYFAHC Report on Connecting Immigrants to Commercial Health Coverage In New York

Monday, June 22, 2009

Contact:
Mark Scherzer, Esq.
NYFAHC
212.406.9606

Embargoed until 6/22/09

NEW REPORT FINDS MIXED SUCCESS IN EXTENDING PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE TO IMMIGRANT NEW YORKERS
Health Reform Should Establish Community-Based Connectors

Today, New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage (NYFAHC) released the first-ever study contrasting the approaches of New York’s major health insurers to insuring immigrant communities. The report, Connecting Immigrants to Commercial Health Coverage: A survey of existing and potential strategies, finds that insurers vary in the value they place on immigrants as a potential market and in the strategies they have followed to cultivate immigrants as customers. The work was supported by the New York State Health Foundation.

Expanding coverage of immigrants is an essential building block of all efforts to achieve universal coverage. In New York State, non-citizens are three times more likely than citizens to be uninsured (35 percent vs. 12 percent) and they comprise more than one-quarter (28 percent) of the State’s uninsured population under age 65. Historically, private insurance has been less accessible to immigrants than to citizens because immigrants are more likely to work in small businesses, low-wage firms, and in industries that are less likely to offer benefits.

“Immigrants are disproportionately uninsured, and their lack of coverage or inadequate coverage puts them at great risk should they have or develop serious illnesses and disabilities. Many more immigrants could be covered by commercial insurance if they were effectively educated about what makes coverage desirable and if they had trustworthy linguistically and culturally competent guides connecting them to coverage,” said Mark Scherzer, the report’s author.

The study finds that community credibility is the key to expanding health coverage in immigrant communities. The most successful insurers have not relied on creating special products. Instead, the most effective marketing to immigrant communities integrates linguistically and culturally appropriate educational and social services with the marketing of coverage. It is particularly effective when the entity enrolling people in private coverage is a trusted community institution.

The report also examines alternative models of “connectors” that could be used or created to enhance commercial coverage among immigrants. Connectors are intermediaries between insurers and enrollees that can establish group buying power, standardize and explain consumer choices, perform critical administrative functions, and help consumers navigate the complicated maze of coverage options. While Massachusetts has the best-known and most advanced connector mechanism, New York State also can build on existing resources to create a connector that serves the needs of immigrants.

“The solution to New York’s uninsured problem will require a mixture of both public and private initiatives,” said David Sandman, Senior Vice President of the New York State Health Foundation. “While

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NEW REPORT FINDS MIXED SUCCESS IN EXTENDING PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE TO IMMIGRANT NEW YORKERS/ page 2

we work to simplify our public health insurance programs and make them more accessible to immigrants,
we cannot forget that private coverage is still the backbone of our coverage system. Entities that can effectively connect immigrants to that coverage will be essential."

The report recommends that:

§ Insurers should:
o intensify their efforts to communicate with immigrants in their own languages.
o ensure that linguistically and culturally competent providers are included in their networks.
o recognize that creative co-marketing with community programs can enhance enrollment.

§ New York State should:
o develop a connector entity that partners with community-based social service agencies to integrate insurance enrollment and navigational assistance into their broader social services and immigrant integration function.
o utilize the connector to introduce individuals to varying types of coverage, public and private, rather than act as broker for a single insurer.

This is the second study in NYFAHC’s New York State Health Foundation-supported analysis of the challenges of extending health coverage to immigrants. The complete reports are available upon request or at www.cidny.org or www.thenyic.org or nyshealthfoundation.org.

New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage (NYFAHC) is a statewide coalition of over 50 organizations representing people with disabilities and serious illnesses. NYFAHC leads the way to affordable, accessible, and meaningful health insurance.

NYFAHC is partnering with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) to produce this series. New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for about 200 immigrant-serving groups in New York State that fight for justice and opportunity for our newest New Yorkers.

Support for this report was provided by the New York State Health Foundation, whose mission is to expand health insurance coverage, increase access to high-quality health care services, and improve public and community health.

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