Governor Paterson Signs Legislation to Make Health Insurance More Affordable and Improve Access to Health Care
Governor David A. Paterson signed into law three Governor’s Program bills that will make health insurance more affordable and improve access to health care for New Yorkers. The first extends the period of time for COBRA (Consolidation Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) coverage from 18 to 36 months; the second permits families to cover their young adult dependents through age 29 under their job-based insurance; and the third enacts a series of managed care reforms to make health insurance work better for consumers and permit timely access to necessary health services. The Governor signed the legislation at the University of Rochester Medical Center and was joined by members of the Senate, Assembly and community.
“By enhancing access to group health insurance, these reforms will make health insurance more affordable for everyday New Yorkers. More than 2.5 million of our residents do not have health insurance, partly because of the high cost of coverage,” said Governor Paterson. “We must take the necessary steps to improve our broken health care system. By making insurance coverage more accessible, we bring people into the system before they need emergency treatment, reducing the overall cost of health care to the State.”
The bills signed into law will:
• Expand COBRA for Employees to 36 months: this law will increase the period for employees who lose their jobs to continue their health insurance under COBRA from 18 to 36 months. Workers who lose their jobs can continue purchasing group health insurance provided by their former employers’ group health plans for limited periods of time under certain circumstances for themselves and their families. Federal COBRA generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, while the State’s “mini-COBRA” law requires that smaller employers – those who have fewer than 20 employees – offer the same continuation coverage. This allows employees to maintain health insurance at a lower cost than if they had to buy it independently on the open market. The Governor’s new law will allow New Yorkers who lose their jobs to extend their health insurance coverage for a longer period of time, which is particularly important in the current economy with its record high level of unemployment.
• Insure Dependents through Age 29: This law, outlined by the Governor in his State of the State address, requires insurers to allow unmarried children through age 29 – regardless of financial dependence – to be covered under a parent’s group health insurance policy. Young adults ages 19 to 29 represent 31 percent of uninsured New Yorkers. They often become ineligible for coverage under their parents’ policies at age 19 or upon high school or college graduation, find themselves in entry-level jobs that do not provide employer-based health insurance, and cannot afford to pay premiums for individual insurance policies – which are much more expensive than group policies. Under the new law, premiums will be paid for by families, not employers, and would cost less because coverage is under group policies rather than individual policies. The law also requires insurers to offer employers an option to purchase coverage that includes young adults as dependents in family policies through age 29.
• Managed Care Reform: This bill will implement reforms that help consumers receive the care they need and cut some of the red tape that results in inappropriately delayed or denied claims. There are many protections that will now benefit consumers, some of which include: prohibiting insurers from treating in-network providers as out-of-network providers because the referring provider was out-of-network; reducing prompt-pay time frame from 45 days to 30 days; requiring HMOs and providers to give providers notice of adverse reimbursement changes to provider contracts so that they may have the opportunity to cancel and much more. For the complete list, go to http://www.ny.gov/governor/press/press_0729095.html .
The bills signed into law on July 29, 2009 build upon other initiatives aimed at increasing the availability and affordability of health insurance. In March, Governor Paterson signed into law his Program Bill to help New Yorkers who lost their jobs at small businesses take advantage of a COBRA subsidy made available under the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In addition, the 2009-10 budget eliminated certain barriers to enrolling in public health insurance coverage such as face-to-face interviews, finger imaging, and asset tests and authorized the Department of Health to seek federal support for expanded coverage for low-income adults. Moreover, as of September 1, 2008, all of New York’s uninsured children became eligible for moderate or no-cost health care coverage under Child Health Plus.
Source: 7/29/09 Press Release, www.ny.gov