Westchester/Putnam Access to Health Care Coalition’s Mark Hannay Keeps the County Healthy

Regardless of your political leanings, it’s no secret that having health care is a necessity. Hannay’s efforts may soon make that necessity a reality for all.

Mark Hannay has a huge, complex job. As an advisor to the Westchester/Putnam Access to Health Care Coalition, he works with a number of organizations in our area to ensure that healthcare is available. Hannay, 58, helps the group’s leadership craft some of its programs, strategies, and meeting topics. He gives the Coalition his longtime experience, steady guidance, deep resources, and vast body of knowledge, all of which allow the Coalition to be as effective as possible. On a larger scale, Hannay is the director of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign (MNYHCFAC), a citywide alliance of community groups and labor unions that was founded in 1993 and advocates for fundamental healthcare reform that will lead to a universal healthcare program. He’s also on the steering committee of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY), a consortium of groups across New York State that work for state-based healthcare reform.

Why are you so passionate about this cause? Healthcare is a right that all people have or should have, and America isn’t doing a particularly good job of it. We’ve made some dramatic steps forward with the healthcare legislation that passed in Congress a few years back. But, even once fully implemented and if robustly implemented, it still won’t solve the problem. It provides a much better foundation to build on than we have, but we have more work to do.

Who makes up the Coalition? It doesn’t have a dedicated staff. Rather, it’s a collaboration among people in Westchester organizations, such as Cancer Support Team, Visiting Nurse Services in Westchester and Putnam, the American Cancer Society, the Westchester County Medical Society, Hudson Health Plan, Open Door Family Medical Centers, and Planned Parenthood.

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How did America’s healthcare system get so, as some call it, “dysfunctional”? Just by default, the way things have rolled along historically. We’re the only industrialized nation that still doesn’t provide full universal healthcare for everybody. But the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes dramatic strides in that direction and provides a new foundation to build on, and hopefully we can get there sooner rather than later.

What changes have MNYHCFAC and HCFANY already made? We have had an influence on some changes both before and since the ACA was enacted. Prior to that, we got New York State to restore prior approval of insurance-premium rate increases by the state Department of Financial Services. New Yorkers who will be unemployed or are unemployed can keep their COBRA coverage for up to three years. It had been only 18 months. Young adults are able to stay on their parents’ policies up to age 29 in New York State, which is above the national law of 26. And since ACA’s enactment, we’ve been really working a lot with state government on implementation of the law and various aspects of that.

Will your mission be accomplished when “Obamacare” goes into action? The ACA goes only so far, particularly given that it leaves a lot of discretion and responsibility to the states to do it. Senator Tom Harkin, who’s the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, describes the Affordable Care Act as a ‘starter home.’ I think that’s a good way to think about it. But the fight for healthcare for all is not over. People need to stay politically engaged on that issue and keep in touch with their elected officials at the national, state, and local levels to make sure that we keep moving forward and are doing the best we can as ACA progresses.

â–º For more from the 2013 Health and Fitness Supplement, click here

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