New Laws Increase Access to Affordable Health Care

August 18, 2009

Pearl River – Legislation supported by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee that will increase access to affordable health care for many New Yorkers was recently signed into law by Governor David Paterson. This includes expanding COBRA, extending health coverage to adult children, and providing more health care consumer rights.

Laid-off New Yorkers can continue to purchase health insurance from their former employer’s plan for 36 months, up from 18 months, under a new COBRA law. Additionally, eligible New Yorkers who lost their job between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 may be eligible for a 65 percent subsidy in COBRA premiums for nine months. This is a federal change to COBRA funded by the stimulus package.

“We worked in the Assembly to ensure that every person who wants it has access to health care through programs like the COBRA extension, Healthy NY, Child Health Plus, and the extension of health coverage to adult children,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee.

Starting September 1st, New York parents can cover unmarried children through age 29 who aren’t eligible for Medicare or employer-provided coverage. Previously, coverage ended at age 19 or when the child, up to age 23, graduated from college. In some rare cases, college students were covered up to age 25.

“Extending coverage to adult children takes a tremendous burden off of families,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “These young adults who were dropped from their family insurance plans account for 31 percent of uninsured New Yorkers.”

Under the new law, families, rather than the employer, may have to pay the premiums, but the rates are much cheaper than an individual plan.

In addition to the expansion of coverage, new protections for health insurance customers are slated to take effect on January 1, 2010. These new protections will:

  • Prohibit insurers from treating an in-network provider as out-of-network just because the referring provider was out-of-network;
  • Require consumer in “HMO look-alike” plans – such as a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – receive certain health maintenance organization protections;
  • Require insurers to quickly review post-hospital home health care requests and cover services until a coverage decision is made; and
  • Provide consumers with rare diseases with the right to an external appeals process.