Community Health Advocates (CHA), originally named the New York City Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP), is one of the largest health care consumer assistance programs in the country, dedicated to helping New Yorkers find, keep and navigate health coverage.
CHA was launched in 1999 as a result of a report issued by the NYC Task Force on Medicaid Managed Care (a coalition of health consumers, advocates, providers, and consumers) that documented the serious difficulties Medicaid beneficiaries faced when switching to managed care. This report urged policymakers to create a health care ombudsprogram to address this issue. In order to ease the transition into managed care - and to assist health consumers more broadly - the New York City Council funded the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) to help NYC consumers enroll in health coverage and receive care. The Council selected CSS to design and operate the program because of its experience providing community-based health education.
Before the development of the CHA program, CSS commissioned a citywide survey to identify people most likely to lose health care because of the complexities of managed care. The survey, a random sample of 800 New Yorkers (interviewed by phone in five languages), found the following groups most vulnerable:
- Recent immigrants
- People with Limited English Proficiency
- Low-income individuals
- People with chronic illnesses
CSS designed CHA to help these high-priority populations. In October 2010, CSS received federal funding to expand its services to all of New York State as a provision of health care reform, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). CHA now offers assistance in more than 170 languages and continues to expand its reach into high-need communities throughout the State. In October 2011, CHA became funded under the New York State Exchange Establishment grant and added five more locally-based organizations to better meet the needs of New Yorkers around the State.
CHA offers services through a network of trusted community-based organizations that have deep experience in working with varied populations. The program uses a “hub-and-spokes” model where CSS acts as the “hub,” staffing a live helpline for consumers to call for assistance. The “spokes” are 26 CBOs and three specialist agencies, which were selected through a competitive bidding process. CSS enables CHA agencies to assist their clients with health access-related questions and problems by providing grants, training, materials and technical assistance to these organizations.
In the coming years leading up to 2014, when the ACA comes into full effect, attention will shift to and intensify on national health reform and how it will impact the way people receive health care. The Community Health Advocates program offers a compelling model for helping consumers navigate these new changes in our health care system. As health reform becomes a reality, Community Health Advocates will monitor these changes, providing expert assistance to individuals and service providers alike in order to ensure that everyone can access affordable, quality health care.