As of December 16, the New York State Health Exchange, the official Affordable Care Act online marketplace, saw 363,258 completed applications from New York residents. In addition, 134,622 New Yorkers had enrolled for health insurance coverage to be effective on January 1, 2014. That number represented a 34 percent increase over the 100,881 who had enrolled through December 9.
New York residents, as with all Americans, have until March 31 to sign up for a qualified health plan to be in compliance with the individual mandate as required by the ACA. The first date an ACA plan can be effective is January 1, 2014. To meet that effective date, New Yorkers had to enroll in and pay the first month’s premium for a plan by midnight on December 23.
New York State Health Exchange Performs Better than Federal Exchange
Unlike the problematic federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov, the New York State Health Exchange is on pace to meet or exceed the state’s enrollment goals. However, there are still some consumers who have had difficulty signing up through New York’s website. Some users have said they are frequently confronted with system outages and have spent several hours on the telephone trying to reach someone for help.
Not only that, but some consumers have still not received confirmation of coverage, even if they were one of the first to enroll. Once they finished the enrollment process, they often reported a sense of relief and accomplishment, since the path toward coverage was anything but easy. The navigators hired to help residents make their way through the system have also been relieved to reach the end and receive that “congratulations” screen that signals they have made it through the process.
Enrollment Data Not Released
Even though the New York State Health Exchange is clearly outperforming the federal website, there are still some unknowns in terms of what types of residents have enrolled in the plans. The state Health Department has not provided the public with any breakdowns of the data, so it is uncertain whether or not the enrollment numbers include more young and healthy residents or more sick and elderly residents.
Younger and healthier residents are necessary for the financial success of the ACA. Their premiums are needed to balance out the expected higher medical costs of the older and sicker enrollees who may have not had insurance for many years, if ever. The state Health Department has said it does not have that data yet and describes the enrollment situation as “fluid.”
New Yorkers’ Rates Lower on Average
In contrast with many markets throughout the country, New York is seeing much lower premiums
. In fact, people who purchase their policies through the New York State Health Exchange are finding rates are as much as 53 percent lower than what they were paying in 2013 for similar coverage. In addition, many residents are able to reduce their costs even more in the form of federal tax credits designed to help low- and middle-income families pay for their insurance coverage.
For instance, one New Yorker who had coverage through Healthy NY, a program designed for hard-to-insure individuals that will expire on December 31, for $ 269 per month, was able to find a Silver level plan through the state exchange for $ 195 per month. Moreover, she was able to add a dental plan for just $ 15 per month.
Another resident , used to pay $ 518 per month for a plan through BlueCross BlueShield. Once he was able to make it through the complicated enrollment process, he found a plan through Health Republic that will cost just $ 366 per month. The $ 150-per-month savings will be a welcome windfall for the self-employed individual.
Call Center Busy
Since its debut on October 1, the New York State Health Exchange customer service center has responded to almost 300,000 calls. The volume is ratcheting up in advance of the enrollment deadline for a January 1 effective date. Although consumers reported long wait times initially, the exchange has added extra employees to help handle the extra volume.
More than 5,000 certified assistors or “navigators” are available throughout the state to help New Yorkers apply in person. Navigators at one in-person help center have answered close to 1,300 calls and have scheduled over 250 appointments. They are completely booked until well into January.
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