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NYS Senate Approves Legislation to Expand Access to Family Health Plus

chp.gifThe New York State Senate passed legislation last week that would make more lower-income families eligible for the Family Health Plus program by removing depreciation of business assets from income eligibility calculations.

“Programs like Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus have kept hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers healthy by making insurance available for those who otherwise can’t afford it,” said Senator Betty Little (R,C,I-Queensbury).  “However, some families, particularly those of farmers and other self-employed individuals, have not qualified for Family Health Plus because the income calculation includes depreciated assets.”

Currently, when a family applies for insurance through the Family Health Plus program, the family income must be below a certain threshold (150 percent of the federal poverty level) for eligibility.  Many families who are self-employed seemingly meet this threshold, yet are prevented from accessing the program as the family income, as stated on the program application forms, is required to include depreciation of business assets.
Little said farmers, in particular, are especially hard hit because of depreciation of expensive machinery, including tractors, combines and spreaders.  While depreciation in income calculations may provide indications regarding the extent of farm machinery owed for necessary farm operation, it does not accurately reflect actual farm family income.

“I applaud Senator Little for advancing this bill to ensure that more farmers are able to take advantage of the Family Health Plus program,” Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said.  “This bill would fix the law so farmers are not excluded from receiving health care coverage because of depreciated assets.”
This legislation (S.7472) is a follow-up to Chapter 101 of the Laws of 2007, which applied only to farm families.  Because the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) believed that the farm-only waiver enacted by New York State was too narrowly drafted, this legislation is needed to address CMS’s concern by broadening the scope of last year’s law.  The change will take effect only after all necessary approvals under federal law have been met.

The bill was sent to the Assembly.

(Dov Gordon – YWN)

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