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Long Island

Advocates seek immigrant enrollment in health plans

Long Island's immigrant residents should put aside any fears and apply for coverage for the second year of New York's version of Obamacare, say community advocates who are helping people get access to health care.

Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, health policy director at the Children's Defense Fund, a multistate child advocacy group, said at a Brentwood briefing Tuesday that their goal is "to create awareness" during the open enrollment period about the options for immigrants -- particularly children who can be insured regardless of their immigration status.

People can enroll in the plan through Feb. 15.

"It's important that all New Yorkers get access to preventive care and also care for chronic disease management," Gonzalez-Camastra said. "It's in everyone's best interests to have that happen across the board, because it is going to improve the public health in our state."

Advocates particularly seek to increase insurance rates among Hispanics, known to be disproportionately uninsured. A Georgetown University Health Policy Institute study showed that 11.5 percent of Latino children nationwide were without coverage last year, compared with 7.1 percent of children in the overall population.

New York is doing better than average, with more than 47,000, or 4.7 percent, of its Latino children remaining uninsured.

The state launched a Spanish-language version of its health care enrollment website this year. It also is offering health enrollment information in eight languages and translating select documents to 10 more languages, the state health department said.

Central Islip resident Miriam Elaraby said she is glad she applied for health care with help of a navigator from the advocacy group Make the Road New York. She wanted to be able to afford her eyeglasses, and discovered other benefits.

"It had been a while since I had medical coverage," Elaraby, 57, said in Spanish. "And, wow, now I have Medicaid ... I can now get preventive care."

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