Members of the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus –Yonkers chapter gathered in the Yonkers Riverfront Library to host a public information fair and forum on the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. More than 100 families came to hear vital information on health care services and learned how to get access to quality and affordable health care.
Seated (left to right): Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Rosalyn Witter, Yonkers Chapter president, Jewel Williams, President of the countywide Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, Tara L. Martin, ACA Forum Coordinator — Photo Credit: WBWPC Yonkers chapter
YONKERS, NY – More than 100 of Yonkers working families flooded the Riverfront Library in downtown Yonkers on Saturday to learn more about new and affordable health care options through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare. The Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, Inc.-Yonkers chapter (WBWPC) hosted a free public information fair and community forum for residents and joined with local health access experts, health insurance providers and community groups to educate and enroll Yonkers families for health care in the new insurance marketplace or ‘exchange’. Other experts and health care providers provided valuable information on important health care resources locally available for low-income and working families.
“The Caucus is proud to have partnered with these community based organizations that share our mission of expanding access to health care in Yonkers,” said Rosalyn Witter, WBWPC Yonkers Chapter President. “This Information Fair and Forum created an opportunity for uninsured Yonkers families to access community resources and information that can help them understand their options during the open enrollment period.” For over 35 years, the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, Inc. has advocated for women of African descent as a multi-partisan political organization pursuing causes that are beneficially to the community. With five local chapters in Peekskill, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Greenburgh and Yonkers, the members of the WBWPC have volunteered their time, energy and ideas to the enhancement of the organization, united in the organization’s goals, and focused on the political future for Westchester County.
Across the country, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been moving forward. Starting October 1, for the first time ever, all Americans began shopping for quality health coverage that was affordable, and not be denied or charged more because they have a pre-existing condition. The New York State of Health, NY’s health insurance marketplace is a new, simpler way for uninsured New Yorkers and their families to purchase health insurance in one place. Coverage begins as early as January 1, 2014 for people enrolling by December 15, 2013. Hundreds of outreach and enrollment activities have been taking place nationwide since the rollout.
“It’s important the people of Yonkers know what the Affordable Care Act will mean for them so I am happy to partner with the WBWPC Yonkers Chapter to bring this critical information to our community. The New York State of Health website has helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers sign up for affordable health insurance and find out if they qualify for subsidies, but the enrollment period only lasts for a few more weeks for coverage starting in January. This forum will help people navigate the new system and learn about their options so they can sign up for affordable health coverage,” said Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democratic Conference Leader.
Cheryl Brannan, founder and CEO of Sister to Sister International, Inc., said: "As an official Ambassador for the NY State of Health Plan Marketplace, Sister to Sister International, Inc., is pleased to partner with the Yonkers chapter of the Westchester Black Women's Political Caucus, Inc. and other community partners on this long awaited opportunity to ‘spread the word’ on affordable health insurance in NYS. Basic coverage includes lots of benefits and you can spend a lot less money. Affordable health care for our community is what we have been fighting for — now is the time, don't miss out.”
Health Care Experts Answer Questions about ACA and the Health Exchange
Attendees asked questions and learn details about the Affordable Care Act during a panel discussion with qualified community experts. The panel was moderated by News 12 Westchester fill-in anchor Lisa Reyes.
Many seniors are already benefiting from provisions of the law such as receiving preventive services and paying lower Medicare prescription drug costs. “Seniors need to know that the ACA hasn't cut their Medicare benefits. In fact, the ACA has actually increased them," said Pat Esposito, Director of Westchester Seniors Speaking Out, a senior advocacy group within the Medicare Rights Center.
In less than two months since the launch of NY State of Health, almost 50,000 New Yorkers have enrolled in quality, low-cost health insurance and nearly 200,000 have completed applications and are eligible for insurance. "Regardless if you think the Affordable Care Act is a good idea, a bad idea, or a work-in-progress, it is still the law of the land,” said Timothy Foley, policy advisor for the Greater NYC for Change, a grassroots volunteer organization formed after the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. “Individuals and families who are uninsured or need help with healthcare costs owe it to themselves to ask questions and get answers on whether some of the laws programs can help them with their own healthcare needs. After all, nothing is more important than your health!"
Navigators Provided On-Site Enrollment for Attendees
During the Fair & Forum, certified health care navigators were available to sign up attendees for low-cost health insurance and answer direct questions. Navigators from Westchester Disabled on the Move, the Retail Action Project (RAP) and Young Invincibles enrolled hundreds of Yonkers residents. Nearly 500 in-person assistors/navigators have been trained and are providing high-quality enrollment assistance in all 62 counties of the state, and in a total of 48 languages. Individuals and families can get information and enroll in a plan either online at http://www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, by calling toll-free at 1-855-355-5777, or in-person through a navigator.
“We are finally helping retail and low wage workers get what they desperately need and what their employers are falling short on: affordable health insurance,” said Flor Ramirez, Director of the Health Care Access Program at the Retail Action Project (RAP), a worker center dedicated to retail workers.
“The availability of quality, affordable health care is a need that impacts all people regardless of their current health status. We are all only ‘temporarily able bodied’ and all of us will need help at some time,” said Melvyn Tanzman, executive director of Westchester Disabled on the Move, a disability rights advocacy organization. “The New York State of Health Marketplace will ensure economic security and peace of mind for all New Yorkers.”
“As the country’s most historically underinsured age group, young New Yorkers stand to disproportionately benefit from new coverage options available through the Affordable Care Act,” said Natalia Diaz, NY Navigator and Organizing Director for Young Invincibles, a national youth advocacy organization. “With over half of uninsured young adults saying they struggle with medical bills or debt, the New York State of Health Marketplace can offer important financial security through new coverage options and discounts."
Yonkers Community and Health Care Groups Provide Key Resources
Attendees had an opportunity to connect with over 20 health care providers, labor unions, community based organizations that provided community resources including community clinics, health education, education resources and more.
Joseph Shuldiner, Executive Director of the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers said: “The Affordable Healthcare Act and the supportive programs provided through the State of New York offer our residents an opportunity for Healthcare Insurance and Healthcare Services. It is vital that as many people as possible become aware of these opportunities and take advantage of them.”
Malik Abdur-Razzaq, MPH, Market Segment Manager of EmblemHealth said: “EmblemHealth is proud to sponsor the Westchester Black Women's Political Caucus’ Affordable Care Act event. We participate in local events and connect with our neighbors, sharing tools and tips to help everyone stay healthy, get well and live better. You see us in your neighborhoods, providing access to fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy recipe cooking demonstrations. Together we hope to educate and assist Yonkers residents in understanding their health coverage options. This is our way of showing ‘What Care Feels Like’”.
Mary Simon, RN, McHF, Vice President of the Westchester Black Nurses Association, Inc. (WBNA) said: “The Affordable Care Act gives nurses opportunities to deliver care and play a fundamental role in the nation’s health care. Nurses are the principal segment of the nation’s health care workforce. The Affordable Care Act allows for primary and preventive care that will go a long way to improve the health care of the uninsured and the underinsured. For the profession of nursing, the health of the community and the patients we serve is our number one priority.”
Reina Schiffrin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic said: "Everybody seems to be talking about Obamacare, but so many people still don't have all the facts when it comes to the new health care law. We want to make certain people know that insurance is now much more affordable and that there are certain issues they should consider when choosing a plan. And of course, we want to make sure they know how to enroll."
Yejide Okunribido, Executive Director of the YWCA Yonkers said: “The Affordable Care Act offers among many benefits, including access to affordable health insurance. By taking advantage and enrolling, community residents will not only be proactive about their health but will also be helping to improve the quality of life for all.”
Paula Crawford, President of the Yonkers African American Heritage Committee said: "The Affordable Care Act is an opportunity for everyone to receive healthcare insurance and health care services and it is our honor to assist in ensuring our community is empowered with this information and enrolled.”
Andrea Brown, President of the Yonkers Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said: “The Yonkers Branch of the NAACP is proud to co-sponsor this event. Health is part of our Strategic Plan: Game Changers for the 21st Century, saying everyone will have equal access to affordable, high- quality health care, and racially disparate health outcomes will end.”
Jill Furillo, RN, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said: "NYSNA nurses are partnering with the Westchester Black Women's Political Caucus, Inc. to improve access to quality, affordable healthcare, particularly in underserved communities. No one should have to struggle to get the care they need, and we are excited to work with an organization committed to ending healthcare disparities."