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Community Service Society awarded contracts to help New Yorkers obtain health insurance

Stephon Johnson | 8/1/2013, 11:05 a.m. | Updated on 8/1/2013, 11:05 a.m.

As part of the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) will help uninsured New Yorkers obtain health insurance.

The New York Health Benefit Exchange, a health care marketplace, required the state to set up online one-stop shops where customers and businesses can shop for and enroll in health insurance programs. Each state is required to participate in this under what’s colloquially known as “Obamacare.”

“Access to quality health coverage is particularly critical in low- and moderate-income, minority and immigrant communities where individuals often forgo preventative care and experience greater health risks,” said CSS President and CEO David Jones in a statement. “As a consumer- and community-focused nonprofit with more than 170 years of experience working with underserved communities, CSS is uniquely positioned to engage vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities and deploy effective outreach and education strategies to increase enrollment and promote the benefits of health coverage.”

The New York Health Benefit Exchange will begin accepting applications on Oct. 1, 2013, for Jan. 1, 2014, enrollment.

Working with a network of 38 statewide, local community-based organizations and small business-serving groups like Make the Road New York, the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Action Project, CSS plans on targeting enrollment strategies and venues that are best tailored to the needs of the uninsured. With a 62-month contract from the New York State Department of Health, the goal of CSS is to establish a navigator network that would enroll 55,000 New York individuals, families and small employers in insurance plans each year in 61 out of 62 counties.

According to CSS, the local subcontracting organizations partnering with them will be staffed by employees familiar with New York’s uninsured population, including local organizations that “serve low-wage retail and restaurant workers; immigrant and minority serving groups; Chambers of Commerce and other small business-serving groups; longstanding providers of facilitated enrollment, social services and legal services to low-income and disabled New Yorkers; groups that serve young adults; rural associations; and health care providers.”

Earlier this month, the New York State Department of Health told CSS that it had been awarded a grant to establish and implement an in-person assisters/navigator network that would support health insurance enrollment requirements in conformity with the Affordable Care Act. The agreement is contingent on approval by the New York Comptroller’s Office.

Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at CSS, said the organization can look no further than its own past accomplishments when it comes to the current task at hand.

“Drawing on our success establishing Community Health Advocates—which, for the last decade, has helped more than 200,000 New Yorkers navigate the health care system—CSS will leverage a statewide network of community and small business-serving groups to guide people of diverse backgrounds to the exchange, explain their options and help them select health coverage that bests meets their needs,” stated Benjamin. “New York has been a leader in expanding health care services, and CSS is proud to play a role in bringing more affordable health coverage to individuals and businesses.”