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Queens Chronicle

Hospitals planning Obamacare outreach

Jamaica and Flushing want doctors, community ready for state exchange

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:46 am, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

Officials at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center said on Tuesday that they have little interest in the political arguments over the state health insurance exchange that was established on Oct. 1 under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“It’s here, and between 400,000 and 440,000 people in Queens may be eligible to apply,” said David Evangelista, director of managed care.

Michael Hinck, director of public affairs at the hospital, said its staffers are undertaking a massive community outreach effort that will include postings on their website; the training of staff to assist people with the application process; town hall-style meetings before civic groups and even printed literature that will be available at medical facilities.

He also said they have been working closely with their doctors and staff to make sure they are ready to handle the changes, which kick in this January for those who apply before Dec. 15. Feb. 15, 2014 is the deadline to sign up before being subject to a fine.

Flushing Hospital, like Jamaica, comes under the MediSys Health Network, and will be offering the same information and outreach efforts.

Evangelista said Family Heath Plus, the current state insurance plan for low-income patients and the underinsured, is going to be terminated.

“And a lot of the people we serve come under that,” Evangelista said. “Uninsured, people who don’t get insurance through their jobs.”

Access to the new exchange programs is available — or is supposed to be — at nystateofhealth.ny.gov.

“That will guide people to private insurers,” Evangelista said. “It will guide you through the process and help you determine what subsidies you are eligible for.”

Evangelista said he, with his knowledge of the topic, was able to navigate the website, though it has had difficulties.

It crashed the first day when 2 million people in New York State attempted to sign in within the first two hours.

That dispelled the theory, Evangelista said, that no one would be interested, but also was a troublesome sign in a state that has openly embraced and prepared for the Affordable Care Act.

Hinck said the hospitals and the providers they have negotiated with plan to stress preventive care, and acknowledged that they have an interest in as many people finding affordable insurance as possible.

“If you have a manageable condition, like diabetes, some people won’t see their doctors, won’t get their medication because they can’t afford it,” Hinck said. “When it becomes serious, they show up at the emergency room and may have to be admitted.”

And medical care, he said, never gets cheaper by delaying it.

Evangelista said one large unknown they are trying to deal with is what he called the “woodwork factor,” people who upon getting medical coverage, maybe for the first time, will seek to fix a sore shoulder or a chronic bum knee.

“And we hope that they do,” Hinck said.

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