Since October 1 we have been riding the wave of the New York State Exchange rollout. This has affected all of our patients and clients as well as many others in the community who have asked us for help in negotiating this new option for obtaining health insurance.
As of March 31, the first open enrollment period on the Exchange closed. We can now begin to assess what the impact of this first six months has been for our patients and clients and the Center. The expansion of Medicaid to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level has been a blessing for many people who were surprised that they are now eligible. They were easily signed up and now have the security of health insurance. Medicaid enrollment is continuous and has no open or closed times during the year.
Other people were pleased to find an insurance policy on the Exchange that fit their health care needs and their budget, especially after the Advanced Premium Tax Credit was applied. They too applied with the assistance of a Navigator right at the Center and we are helping them find a new provider and get settled with their new health insurance.
As we anticipated, though, there are others for whom the Affordable Care Act has not worked. For some the premiums and deductibles are still unaffordable; others are ineligible to apply; some are not capable of negotiating a large health care system and their health care would suffer; some may get caught in administrative snafus that leave them without health care in the interim. These are the people we will continue to see at St. Josephâ€™s – those who have no options in the health insurance world, but who have all manner of health concerns.
So as we go forward, we do as we have always done â€“ care for people on a daily basis, and watch carefully what is happening on a larger scale, so that we can be ready to address issues as they arise. That is the best way we can be responsible with your invested dollars.
On a personal level, we are getting ready to say goodbye to Janet McNally who was our very first volunteer 20 years ago, and who then became our full-time Clinical Coordinator seven years ago after her retirement from St. Johnâ€™s Home. She is going into full-time â€œGrandmaâ€ mode with Ella and Charlie as her family moves to Arizona. We have no words to say how much we will miss Janet, nor how much she has contributed to the Center being a model of excellence for the delivery of health care.
In her honor, we started the McNally Patient Assistance Fund, which will be used to pay for tests and other expenses that patients need that they cannot afford themselves.
We also suffered the loss of our friend and volunteer Jeffery Barhite who died suddenly after a brief illness. He was a bright light for us and we are stunned at his absence. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the Center and when someone suddenly disappears from our midst we are deeply affected. Jeffery was somewhat of a force of nature in his own right and we miss that energy.
So, welcome to 2014. Letâ€™s explore what this year will be bringing to all of us. Thank you for your continued support as we work at our mission every day to bring health care to those who have no other options. You keep the ship afloat â€“ thank you.
–Christine Wagner, SSJ