New MetroPlus concierge station debuts at Lincoln | Nueva estación de servicio MetroPlus debuta en Lincoln
by Derrel Jazz Johnson, The Bronx Free Press
It was a day of transformation.
While it was hard to miss the bright yellow signage and swag bags, nothing underscored the day’s theme of change as brightly as the towering, glowing action figure prowling the halls of Lincoln Medical Center this past Tues., Aug. 8th.
And as most action figures, the Transformer-like robot was on a mission.
MetroPlusHealth, the non-profit insurance provider, held a ceremonial opening for its new concierge station on the first floor of the full-service, acute care hospital, located at 234 East 149th Street in the South Bronx.
It further expands the footprint in the borough for the organization, which partners with the NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal healthcare system in the United States, and boasts a wide network of community offices, storefronts and hospital lobbies across the city.
The site, just a short distance from the Lincoln’s main entrance, is intended to serve as a one stop shop for local residents. Services offered include answering inquiries, health plan renewals and coverage applications, among others.
“We want to make sure that every single one of our members [is] heard,” explained MetroPlusHealth Chief Operating Officer Lila Benayoun, noting that the organization currently counts approximately 750,000 members across New York City.
Over 46,000 are served on-site at Lincoln, noted Benayoun, and all residents are welcome.
“So, this is a tremendous, monumental event,” she said. “We are so excited and appreciate the ongoing collaboration, and we continue to look forward to better servicing our members.”
Benayoun was joined by MetroPlusHealth colleagues and Lincoln Chief Executive Officer Christopher Roker, Lincoln Hospital Chief Financial Officer Zhishen Yang, New York City Councilmember Kevin Riley, as well as a representative from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson’s office.
Guests were treated to refreshments and gift bags that included water bottles and mouse pads, while the larger-than-life robot posed for photos with children and adults alike who chatted him up in different languages.
The site was formerly a gift shop that sold coffee and snacks.
The remodel has reanimated the space with colorful, welcoming décor and adjacent cubicle spaces that maximize privacy and individualized attention.
“[This is] really important because when you go to the hospital, especially within communities of color, it can be a very traumatizing experience. Especially if you don’t have health insurance,” said Councilmember Riley, who represents the 12th District and is the Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC). “What MetroPlusHealth is doing here today is creating a safe space. They are usually in public hospitals, but usually at tables. What Lincoln has done is really invest in the community and really give MetroHealthPlus the space to actually help.”
In the South Bronx, which includes the hospital’s 10451 zip code and surrounding neighborhoods, it is estimated that more than 40% of residents live in poverty, which is nearly twice the citywide level of 21%, while 16% are unemployed vs. 10% citywide.
Moreover, half of all South Bronx households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, more than twice the citywide level.
The stark health and income disparities were never clearer than during the global Covid-19 pandemic, which buffeted the borough with high rates of contagion, illness, and death.
The organization has sought to combat the inequities by providing health insurance at little to no cost since 1985.
By contrast, Lincoln Chief Financial Officer Zhishen Yang is a relatively recent addition to the team. He joined the hospital 18 months ago – shortly after the pandemic crested.
“Especially with the Covid pandemic, we see a lot of needs in the community, and I think [this is one] really important way to make sure that the community, our patients, are being covered.”
With over 144,000 visits recorded annually, Lincoln is the busiest single-site emergency department in the city and the third busiest in the nation.
Residents with insurance are more inclined to maintain consistent levels of healthcare, said Yang.
“This is a really good way for us to see our members,” he said. “We will have data to show that our members are visiting our facilities or even other facilities on a regular basis to make sure that they are actually doing preventative care instead of showing up in the emergency room.”
“They come here to receive care,” added Yang. “It is our role in a way to educate them about what is a better way to take care of themselves.”
“Putting this concierge office here right in the front reminds clients that MetroPlusHealth is a very important part of the community as well.”
Establishing so a visible hub in the lobby space of the area’s largest public hospital reinforces the organization’s commitment to elevating residents’ well-being, agreed Riley.
“I came to celebrate with this community,” he exclaimed. “Because it’s a huge win for this neighborhood.”
MetroPlusHealth’s new concierge station is located in the lobby at Lincoln at 234 East 149th Street, Bronx, New York 10451. For more, please call 800.303.9626 or visit metroplus.org.
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