ROCHESTER — Fidelis Care, the New York state bishops’ health-insurance company, finally was due to arrive in Monroe County by early July.
Fidelis specializes in offering health-care programs for those who lack access to adequate care. According to Jack Balinsky, diocesan health-care coordinator, Fidelis was still finalizing the hiring of staff and securing of office space as of press time June 29, and also awaiting final state approval to begin operations locally.
The nonprofit agency offers three chief health-insurance programs:
* Child Health Plus, the state program for children under age 19 who don’t qualify for Medicaid and who have limited or no health insurance.
* Family Health Plus, which provides coverage for state residents ages 19-64 who lack health insurance but have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.
* Medicaid Managed Care, which allows members to choose a Medicaid plan that coordinates the provision, quality and cost of their health care.
Fidelis Care was begun in 1993 on the belief that all New Yorkers should have access to affordable, quality health insurance. Within the next few years the state’s eight Roman Catholic bishops — including Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark — succeeded in extending the license of Fidelis Care to serve Medicaid beneficiaries across the state. This interdiocesan insurance initiative was the first of its kind in the country.
Fidelis already has established a presence in every Catholic diocese in New York except Rochester. Balinsky said the delay locally arose from the need to secure an adequate network of health-care providers who would accept the insurance. According to Darla Shattenkirk, Fidelis’ director of communications, the company’s current local network consists of ViaHealth (Rochester General Hospital) and Strong Health (Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital). The company currently is in negotiations with Unity Health System.
Initially, Fidelis is being offered in Monroe County only. Yet Balinsky said negotiations have begun in Cayuga and Steuben counties, and that he hopes Fidelis eventually will spread throughout the 12-county diocese.
“Certainly Fidelis and we, the diocese, are committed to making Fidelis available in as many counties as possible,” said Balinsky, who also serves as director of diocesan Catholic Charities.
Balinsky said Fidelis is expected to have a staff of five or six people in Monroe County and will operate as a satellite of Fidelis’ Buffalo office. He noted that staff members will strive to assist applicants with the lengthy paperwork involved and create awareness for the many people “who are eligible (for health insurance) and don’t know it.”
The agency is based in Queens. According its Web site, Fidelis currently serves approximately 260,000 members — two-thirds of whom are in Medicaid Managed Care — in 37 counties statewide.
“The insurance business is big business, and Fidelis is highly competent, highly professional,” remarked Balinsky, who represents Bishop Clark on the Fidelis board of directors. Yet he added that the company has a special niche and “it is not really the object of Fidelis to try and compete” with the Rochester area’s two main health-insurance companies, Preferred Care and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
“Fidelis Care looks forward to serving residents of the greater Rochester area and Monroe County,” said Mark Lane, president and CEO. “Working with Bishop Clark and the Diocese of Rochester, it is our goal to make a difference in people’s lives and to provide them with convenient access to the quality care and services they need and deserve.”
Now that Fidelis appears to be arriving here at last, “I’m ecstatic, and the bishop is ecstatic. It’s been a long, hard odyssey,” Balinsky said.
EDITORS’ NOTE: Those interested in learning more about Fidelis Care may call 888/343-3547 or visit www.fideliscare.org.