Health Plus opens doors at Jamaica Ave. site

By Courtney Dentch

A health insurance provider that markets three free or low-cost state plans for children and families has set up shop in a newly renovated Jamaica Avenue office building.

Health Plus, the leading seller of Child Health Plus in the city, officially opened its doors at 153-17 Jamaica Ave. in downtown Jamaica last month, said Dominic Mascara, the company’s chief marketing officer.

The building, owned by Whitestone-based White Rock Ventures, Inc. received a grant from Keyspan’s Cinderella Program to improve the front and rear facades and renovate the interior before Health Plus moved in several months ago, said Gary Bonelli, president of White Rock.

Health Plus, a non-profit organization founded in 1984 in Brooklyn, provides managed medical care through a network of more than 2,000 primary care providers in all five boroughs, Mascara said. The network also includes specialists, hospitals and private offices, he said.

Health Plus also offers health education classes on topics ranging from domestic abuse and immunizations to diabetes and asthma, Mascara said. The company has more than 190,000 clients in the city, he said.

“We are truly an organization that is committed to social responsibility,” he said.

At the Jamaica Avenue office, eligible people and families can enroll in one of the state’s three insurance plans: Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus or Health Care Plus. The first, created in 1992 by then Gov. Mario Cuomo, is aimed at providing free or low-cost health coverage to children under 19 who are not eligible for the Medicaid program, Mascara said.

The family program offers free insurance for adult citizens who meet income requirements, Mascara said. Children are not covered under Family Health Plus, but can participate in Child Health Plus, he said.

The third plan, the Health Care Plus, is a managed Medicaid program available to anyone eligible for Medicaid, Mascara said. This includes some immigrants and their children, he said.

The new Jamaica office is an administrative office, where people can get information on the programs and sign up, Mascara said. No medical treatment is available there.

“This way our members can speak to someone in flesh and blood rather than being in limbo on the phone,” Mascara said. “Access to health care also means access to administration and assistance.”

The Jamaica office joins two other Health Plus offices in Queens, including one in Kew Gardens at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd. and another in Elmhurst at 91-31 Queens Blvd., Suite 222.

Health Plus occupies the first and basement floors of the three-story Jamaica Avenue building, which was given an overhaul before the group moved in earlier this year. Aside from improving the facades, White Rock Ventures replaced the bathrooms, elevators and air-conditioning system, and built a new lobby space in the back of the building, Bonelli said.

The money for the renovation came, courtesy of the Cinderella Program run by Keyspan energy company, said Keyspan spokeswoman April Dubison. The grant program offers funding to developers who want to fix up buildings that have been abandoned, she said.

“That building had been abandoned for a while,” she said. “The grant was started to help renovate and bring back to life buildings that have been abandoned.”

The Parson Furniture company had been at that location until 1996, and the building was left vacant until White Rock Ventures bought it in 2000, according to city property records.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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