Amy Shefrin, New York State Health Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer, Cost and Coverage

FUNDING AREA: Health, healthcare, and healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act (New York-specific)

CONTACT: shefrin@nyshealth.org; 212-584-7673

IP TAKE: Shefrin presides over millions of dollars in grants given each year to expand healthcare coverage for residents of New York State. Increasing enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is a major priority for her and her team right now.

PROFILE: Amy Shefrin wants people to have healthcare, and she has worked for years trying to make that happen. Among her previous health-focused positions: working on coverage expansion in the New York City Mayor's Office of Health Insurance Access, and writing reports on health care for congress at the Government Accountability Office. Shefrin has also spent time working for the New York City Office of Management and Budget and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the latter as director of development, which gives her a direct understanding of life in the nonprofit trenches.

Today, she is a program officer at the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) where she directs the foundation's resources toward health policy and coverage programs.

With more than $280 million in assets, the New York State Health Foundation has money (if not enough) to spend on its broad mission: getting healthcare to New Yorkers. Noting that some 2.6 million people are uninsured, the foundation wants to play an active role in reducing those numbers as healthcare eligibility goes up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Already, NYSHealth, under Shefrin's direction, is aggressively pursuing enrollment campaigns and other initiatives to expand healthcare access in the state. Some recent healthcare expansion efforts funded by the NYSHealth:

  • $1.2 million to the Community Service Society of New York to help the state's small businesses understand their (expanded) options for employee coverage under the ACA
  • $100,000 to Open Door Family Medical Center to expand its capacity as a community health center, in anticipation of greater need under the ACA (NYSHealth gave out nine similar grants to other New York community health centers last year as well.)
  • $300,000 to Sunset Park Health Council to provide primary care services for homeless men in New York

Shefrin was quoted in the Huffington Post discussing a project supported by NYSHealth to help people with disabilities access greater care under the ACA. Shefrin noted that she and the team at NYSHealth see a particular need to invest in projects that help people with disabilities, because a lot of other foundations don't. "Disabilities are gaining more recognition among philanthropists," Shefrin explains, "but it is challenging to attract funders who want to see impact and change when the funders themselves may mistakenly perceive disabilities as having an immutable status." A harsh assessment of the larger philanthropy world, perhaps, but encouraging to see that Shefrin and her team see disability care as part of the larger healthcare expansion occurring in the United States. (Not every entity working on disabilities and healthcare is so enlightened.)