Photo Credit: MOIA
By JR Holguin
A Census National Interview Survey indicated that 30 million people in the United States of all ages were uninsured during the time the survey was conducted in 2021. In New York, nearly 5% of residents live without insurance. Though one could say those numbers are low, health care is not only a service but also a fundamental human right, and York City recognizes that. Recently, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Commissioner Manuel Castro and NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) Executive Director of NYC Care Dr. Jonathan Jiménez hosted an in-person Ethnic and Community Media Roundtable at City Hall. The roundtable also included testimony by NYC Care patient Wendell Wells.
NYC Care is an excellent program to decrease that percentage closer to nil. A health care access program, not insurance, NYC Care guarantees low-cost and even no-cost health services to New Yorkers who may not qualify for healthcare for whatever reasons or cannot afford it. It promises health care for all New Yorkers regardless of their current immigration status.
New Yorker from Day One
For years newly arrived immigrants of New York City abided a 6-month waiting period before becoming eligible for residency and the many benefits New Yorkers receive. But that concluded on April 20, 2022, when it was removed across all five boroughs. “You’re a New Yorker from the first day you move here,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “Diabetes doesn’t wait for six months; why should you wait to get health care.”
The change allows immigrants to get the necessary health services they need as soon as they arrive. Many will be ineligible to receive health care through their employers or cannot pay out of pocket.
“New York City is at the forefront of providing health care and treatment to its immigrants, whether they are fleeing war in Ukraine, poverty in Haiti, or Central America,” emphasized Commissioner Castro.
NYC Care advises members, regardless of immigration status, to get the care they need without fear. Policies and procedures are applied to help remove many immigrants’ fears. Members have the right to treatment without discrimination, explanations of all charges, respectful care in a safe and clean environment, and the policy to safeguard immigration status and other confidential information is protected.
Before You Get Sick
Preventive care services, such as routine health screenings and vaccinations, can save years of life, keep people healthy, and save money. Unfortunately, only about 50% of all age groups use these services. NYC Care will help members choose their primary care provider at enrollment. Members are encouraged to select a primary care provider they trust to ensure a comfortable relationship that allows members to share medical and lifestyle information confidently.
The primary care provider, who can be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, will be able to refer members to all other necessary services like medication prescriptions, vision, and support services for mental and behavioral health. Women’s health services are also available for members; this includes Gynecology, Obstetrics, family planning, and more.
Wells, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, came to New York two years ago. He suffered from diabetes and hypertension and explained how the program “puts the human factor back into medicine.” Thanks to NYC Care, his health issues have been improved.
“Whatever is available to NYC Heath will also be available to NYC Care members,” Dr. Jimenez said when asked if there were restrictions. “I don’t want someone to feel afraid to come in for care because they don’t have documents. Also, there are no limits on medical care, whatever the patient needs.”
The concept of this program is that health care is less expensive than medical or emergency treatments. More than 100,000 people have already enrolled in NYC Care.
Billing and Fees
NYC Care has no membership fees, monthly fees, or premiums. The cost of any health service is based on a “sliding scare fee per service.” This is calculated by household size and yearly income. Membership will be screened every 12 months to determine if renewal is available.
NYC Care encourages members to pay any fees the day they receive services. Pay options are cash, debit, or credit card. A bill will be mailed to the member’s home if a member cannot pay during the visit. And if members are having issues paying fees, they can contact NYC Care Contact Center to discuss options, such as payment plans, if eligible.
Members will receive a membership card they must carry at all times, especially when visiting primary care providers and getting health care services. The card is unique to each member and shows their personalized service fees.
All services are provided through NYC Health + Hospitals, the most extensive public health care system in the US. With a vast network of hospitals and care centers, NYC Health + Hospitals has 11 hospitals and hundreds of care facilities across all five boroughs.
Lifting the 6-month waiting period for immigrants is made only possible because of an administration that reflects its community. Many representatives holding essential roles in the current administration mirror the citizenry of New York City immigrants because they came to this city as immigrants or children of immigrants and are now serving immigrants and children of immigrants.