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Obamacare: "Countdown To Coverage"

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Stressing that there's only about five weeks until the deadline to enroll for health insurance coverage through the New York State of Health marketplace, the Democratic mayors of Albany, Schenectady and Troy joined community advocates this week at Citizen Action of New York's Albany storefront headquarters to encourage sign-ups.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan pegs the city's estimated uninsured population under 65 at just about 10 percent — but there are more statistics that merit consideration:      "We have not yet seen the race and ethnicity of the applicants and enrollees to date and we're really urging the state to release that data. But we strongly suspect that people of color and people whose first language may not be English are probably lower in numbers and enrollment than for the population in general. And so outreach is going to be very important."

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple is on board with that: he's taking the cost of jail inmate healthcare out of taxpayers' wallets and into Obamacare, free for the incarcerated who enroll behind bars (and they can take it with them when they’re released).  Apple tells Newschannel13 more than 50 inmates have already signed up and more than 400 are eligible.   "Last year we spent well over a hundred two hundred thousand dollars just ourselves the county in paying AMC to take care of our inmates. Our private vendor paid another 5 to 6 hundred thousand dollars to AMC."

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia urges everyone to hop online and register.  "Make sure you're aware of the opportunities that are there for you so that you can be part of this Affordable Care Act."

Even the first lady is concerned: Michelle Obama was in New York City Thursday night for an appearance on Jimmy Fallon's new Tonight Show:   "Well, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26. But once they hit 26 -- they're on their own. And a lot young people think they're invincible. But the truth is, young people are knuckleheads. They're the ones who are cooking for the first time and slice their finger open, they're dancing on the bar stool."

Accidental injuries aside, the bigger question looming is what effect Obamacare will have on the Capital Region: Livability.com has just named Albany a Top 10 City for Affordable Health Carein 2014. They say Albany offers some relief with the right prescription of low health-care spending; good access to hospitals, doctors and other providers; plus an excellent quality of life.  Livability's Matt Carmichael:  "I think it's early to say is the affordable health care act will impact Albany's ranking. I think it's likely that we'll but. I'm not sure if that will help or hurt it in the end. Yes there have been horror stories coming out of the affordable health care act, but they've also been a lot of success stories."

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy fully supports the Affordable Care Act.  "There's some people who still don't like that. There's some people who still are trying to put out disinformation, put out negative connotations to it. But it is an opportunity to provide coverage for individuals that did not have that before."

Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the 20th district, says thenumbers in New Yorkare encouraging.   "745,000 have completed applications ... another 456,000 within that universe have enrolled, and 44,000 enrolled last week." 

The state enrollment goal is 1.1 million enrollees in three years. Citizen Action says that leaves more than 2 million still without insurance.

Advocates at Wednesday's gathering also called for the New York State Legislature to pass the Governor’s proposal for a Basic Health Program (BHP) that would provide more affordable coverage for those just above the Medicaid level.

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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