Obamacare is the term used by both the president’s supporters and critics when discussing his signature legislative initiative, the federal Affordable Care Act.
And with the March 31 deadline for those without health insurance to apply without paying a penalty, the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP is pulling out all stops in its effort to get residents of Southeast Queens to sign up.
The civil rights organization and other groups are planning an outreach, information and education campaign. It began Saturday with a rally outside the NAACP’s St. Albans headquarters, with numerous civic leaders and elected officials on board to spread the word.
“We stand here to say that we support full implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Leroy Gadsden, Jamaica branch president, said. “... Insurers cannot deny coverage to anyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions. And they cannot charge you more because of your gender or more than they charge a healthy person your age.”
Those who do not receive insurance through their employers or who otherwise cannot afford it are being encouraged in New York State to go to the state website — nystateofhealth.ny.gov — to begin the process. Some subsidies are available based on household income.
“We want to make sure that the uninsured in this community get covered,” said Roslin Spigner, past president of the Queens Alumna Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, also one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally.
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) said it was impossible to tell just how many of the state’s current uninsured reside in Southeast Queens, though he, like all present, believes the number to be substantial.
“This is important and historic,” Scarborough said. “For 70 years, seven presidents, Democrats and Republicans, have tried to reform healthcare ... This president did it.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau), a serious supporter of ACA from the beginning, said the program is working, much to the chagrin of those he believes use the term Obamacare as a swipe at the president.
“He’s proud to have his name on that,” Meeks said.
One of the major stumbling blocks has been a lack of young, healthy applicants signing up for healthcare, which insurance carriers are counting on to offset lower premiums for the older and sicker applicants. Speaking after the rally, Meeks said that picture is starting to get better, with young applicants making up about 30 percent of the current enrollees.
Other elected officials speaking at the rally included state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and former longtime councilman Archie Spigner. City Comptroller Scott Stringer also sent a representative.
Angela Jourdain, a registered nurse representing the National Black Nurses Association, also spoke of the need to get people informed and signed up.
“This is not a handout,” Roslin Spigner said. “It’s a right.”