The following blog was written by PJ Weiner, Community Outreach Liaison at EmblemHealth.
New York State is known for being home to world renowned gems like the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, and of course, New York City. Now, New York is also home to an exciting new program called the NY Bridge Plan, New York’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was created by the federal health reform law. The NY Bridge Plan is a state-run PCIP that is administered by a private health plan (GHI, an EmblemHealth company) in collaboration with the New York State Department of Financial Services.
The NY Bridge Plan has over 2,600 enrollees, making it the 5th largest PCIP in the country. You might think this is mostly because New York has such a large population to begin with, but there are a number of other factors at play that contribute to these early enrollment gains.
Unlike many other states with successful PCIP enrollment numbers, New York doesn’t have an existing state-funded high-risk pool. That’s because New York is one of a handful of states that does not deny individuals coverage based on their health status, so there was never a need for a high-risk pool in the past. Other state PCIPs that have higher enrollment rates have been able to promote their PCIPs through their existing state-funded high-risk pools. Because New York was starting from scratch, the NY Bridge Plan had to use different strategies to get the word out. New York attributes its success to a few key strategies, including:
- Dedicating resources to community outreach
- Collaborating with government agencies
- Investing in marketing campaigns
Outreach is key. Community-based organizations have been crucial in getting the word out about the NY Bridge Plan. These organizations already serve New Yorkers who are likely eligible for the NY Bridge Plan, and they have the staff to identify these individuals. The NY Bridge Plan staff partnered with organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Community Health Advocates, and New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage from its inception and conducted trainings and webinars for staff at other organizations when the program launched in October 2010.
Partner with existing programs. Government agencies and programs have also been instrumental in publicizing the NY Bridge Plan. NY Bridge Plan staff have worked with the New York State Department of Labor to promote the program to people who might be out of work and uninsured, as well as the State Office for the Aging to target adults aged 50 to 64 who might be eligible for the program. They also worked with the Department of Health to promote the plan through programs that target specific populations such as the AIDS Institute, the Cancer Services Program, and the Prescription Saver program. On the federal level, the NY Bridge Plan also partnered with both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a variety of local outreach events throughout New York State. Local governments, such as the New York City Office of Citywide Health Insurance Access, have also been helpful with spreading the word to the uninsured.
Small ad buys can make a big difference. The PCIPs have a small administrative budget, and traditional advertising can be very expensive, especially in markets like New York. However, the NY Bridge Plan was able to run one television commercial and several web advertisements that drove enrollment significantly.
With two years left before PCIP enrollment is absorbed into health insurance exchanges, there’s still time to ramp up enrollment and serve more New Yorkers with pre-existing conditions. The NY Bridge Plan looks forward to continuing to streamline its application process, engage partners in outreach efforts, and get more people enrolled. We are proud that the NY Bridge Plan has become another program that helps New York adhere to its tradition of being a leader in providing comprehensive health coverage to as many of its residents as possible.