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'Countdown To Coverage' Campaign Kicks Off 2nd Year

NYS of Health

A second year of "Countdown to Coverage" kicked off in Albany today.  Government and community leaders shared the podium to let area residents and small business owners know they need to enroll in health coverage by February 15th through the New York State of Health Marketplace — and how to get free help to do so.

Roughly one million people enrolled in NY State of Health during year one of open enrollment.  Sherry Tomasky, Director of Outreach for the New York State of Health Marketplace, says new features are being rolled out this year, including:    "...a plan preview. This has been a huge hit with consumers. This is essentially an anonymous shopping feature. It allows someone to go on the website, enter as little information as just their county of residence and that's it. They can see every plan available to them, what it would cost them after their financial assistance is applied, and they can see plan detail on all the covered benefits and out-of-pocket costs associated with those choices."

Other resources on the website include a new video and FAQ sheet to help consumers through the process of picking a plan that's right for them.   Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, joined by fellow Democrat Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia, referenced the votes that have come up in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act.    "That has really created a lot of disinformation and distortions about the reality of the program and the opportunity it presents the citizens, not only in New York State but across the country. What I would encourage people to do is set all that aside, because a lot of that disinformation scares people away. They're afraid of 'What is this process, will the coverage be there, how much is it gonna cost me?'"

Congressman Paul Tonko, whose district includes parts of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Montgomery counties, says there are too many incidents of people being severely impacted physically and economically when an unexpected, unaffordable situation arises.     "Take the step, look at the plans, they're affordable. Also I would suggest that you understand that a navigator here can be your best friend."

Kelly Gross is director of the Navigator Program at the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany.

Gross explained that  "Navigators are really a value-add to the community in terms of being able to sit down with individuals and really walk them through all of their different life circumstances to really think about what they need not only for themselves but for their families as well. We are available seven days a week, mornings afternoons and evenings..."

In addition to emphasis on the importance of renewing coverage, a top priority for year two is enrolling uninsured families and young people.

Tonko pointed out that those who live in poverty or close to it are often most affected by chronic diseases and situations.    "It's important to make certain that you're enrolled in a structured outcome. That is the empowerment that comes with the Affordable Care Act."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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