585 local residents signed up in last ‘open enrollment’
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Even as Republicans in Washington, fresh from their electoral sweep of Congress, renewed calls last week to change or abolish the new federal health insurance program for those lacking medical coverage, Albany officials pushed forward with efforts for more open enrollment in the state-level version, the New York State of Health Marketplace.
And a chance to easily sign up should soon come to Philipstown, as the Town Board learned Thursday night (Nov. 6) during its formal monthly meeting.
Established through the Affordable Care Act, the federal initiative (often derided as “Obamacare”) got underway a year ago with the first open enrollment period, which lasted until spring. Now it’s time for a second enrollment period, as a state marketplace representative, Lynda M. Brady, told the Town Board in a short presentation.
Brady proposed to bring at least one enrollment-advice session to Philipstown, to allow area residents to take advantage of the enrollment window, which runs from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. The Town Board gratefully and unanimously, if informally, accepted her offer and promised to assist with the arrangements.
Co-chairperson of the Westchester-Putnam Access to Health Care Coalition and one of the “navigators” or experts who can assist clients in finding and enrolling in health care through the state marketplace, Brady also observed that 960,000 formerly uninsured Empire State residents got health care before the 2013-14 open enrollment closed. Of that number, she said, 4,443 enrollees live in Putnam County.
According to data she provided, of the Putnam County total, 74 percent were white non-Hispanics; 68 lacked health insurance before enrolling; and 94 percent spoke English. They divided evenly between men and women. Children and young adults (through age 25) represented 30 percent of the total, and those over age 65 less than 1 percent. The 70 percent majority were adults in their latter 20s through early 60s.
The county total includes 585 enrollees from Philipstown, for whom no further demographic breakdowns were available. Brady encouraged others to follow their lead and enroll.
She explained that in a consultation session, a team of navigators essentially sets up a temporary office in a large hall or other facility and a navigator meets individually with each person and helps him or her work through the system and find health insurance, a process that usually takes 60 to 75 minutes per person.
Prospective enrollees should bring basic identification, such as a driver’s license, and such items as the previous federal tax return or month of paycheck stubs, for reference as needed, she said. She said she and her colleagues would provide more material on the ins-and-outs the consultation session well before one is held.
“It’s really, really important” for anyone uninsured in Philipstown to participate in the open enrollment, she said. “We feel that this end of the county has been underserved.”
Wind turbines, VFW and budget drafting
When the board turned to other business, Supervisor Richard Shea announced completion of a draft law on use in Philipstown of wind turbines, or a sort of backyard windmill to create energy for a home. Councilors Michael Leonard, Dave Merandy, Nancy Montgomery and John Van Tassel joined Shea in voting to send the draft to the town’s Planning Board and to the Putnam County Planning Division for reaction.
The board likewise voted unanimously to advertise for more bids for the sale of the town-owned VFW building on Kemble Avenue in Cold Spring. In the first attempt, no bids came in, Shea said, a situation he described as “a little disappointing,”
Continuing its 2015 budget-preparation, the board decided to convene a workshop Thursday, Nov. 13, to discuss ambulance corps funding. The board also scheduled a meeting for Nov. 20 to review and presumably adopt a final budget.