THE BLOG
01/20/2015 10:57 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2015

Get Covered: New York City Council Launches Health Care Coverage Campaign

We currently have the opportunity to make health insurance a reality for more New Yorkers through the New York State of Health Marketplace, which is open for enrollment until February 15. The New York City Council is taking an active role in making sure that New Yorkers are equipped with the information they need to sign up for healthcare. Although last year's enrollment was a great success with nearly half a million uninsured New Yorkers enrolling in insurance, there is still much more work to be done.

Here, in New York, 85% of immigrants are eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, Black and Asian/Pacific Islander adults are most likely to be underinsured and Hispanic adults are more than twice as likely to be uninsured than White adults. Furthermore, approximately 31% of gay and lesbian people in poverty in New York City lack health insurance compared to 24.6% of impoverished heterosexual people.

Even geographically, the health disparities New Yorkers face are troubling: in 2012 the Upper East Side had the lowest uninsured rate at 2.6% while East Harlem, located in my district, had an uninsured rate of 16.5%--so more than 6 times the rate of uninsured just by crossing 96th Street.

We need to pull together as a City to address these disparities. Health care is a basic necessity and should be affordable for everyone. Unfortunately, under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will be left without health insurance--mainly undocumented persons who are prohibited from enrolling in either the health exchanges or Medicaid (with a few exceptions for women and children). This is a massive problem for our health care system--how are we going to care for these individuals, and at what cost to our public institutions? The City needs to begin to come to grips with this problem.

And while opportunities to obtain healthcare exist, lack of awareness is also likely to make enrollment efforts this year more challenging than last year. A recent survey showed that 89% of those without health insurance were not aware that there is open enrollment. The city's public health hospitals disproportionately carry the burden of uninsured patients in New York City, as they take a financial hit in having to make up for the losses when they provide needed care to those without any health coverage.

This is why the Chair of the Health Committee, Council Member Corey Johnson, my council colleagues, and I have launched a citywide campaign to raise awareness and increase enrollment among our communities. We are working with organizations across the City -navigators, health care groups, grass roots organizations, volunteer groups and City agencies -to boost outreach, enrollment, and education events in districts across the City, targeting individuals who are the hardest to enroll. It's important that everyone gets this information. This initiative will make the City a national example for how outreach and enrollment efforts can be done.

For more information about the City Council's Health Care Coverage Campaign go to www.council.nyc.gov