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NY Health Insurance Exchange Ready For 2015 Enrollment

New York's health exchange is gearing up for its second year. Officials are optimistic about the open enrollment period that begins Saturday.

New York State Health Department officials say their exchange has operated smoothly this first year after some initial computer capacity problems. Donna Frescatore, the executive director of New York's Health Benefit Exchange, was on a Families USA conference call Wednesday, looking forward to the start of year two.  Families USA is  a Washington, D.C based nonprofit consumer advocate supporting the Affordable Care Act.  "In our first open enrollment we enrolled almost one million New Yorkers. We have one-stop shopping for people in New York to apply for insurance, so our enrollment has continued to grow throughout the summer months in our public program. We were delighted earlier this week that an independent study done by the New York State Health Foundation found that New Yorkers have been overwhelmingly pleased with their coverage through New York State of health. The survey was of people who became newly insured and some 81 percent or so of the people enrolled in New York in the first open enrollment period didn't have insurance at the time they applied. 92 percent of the people who responded to the survey said they were completely or somewhat satisfied with their health insurance coverage. And as importantly, about 91 percent said they now have new peace of mind, and 92 percent feel somewhat more confident that they will be able to get care when it's needed."

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, premiums in Affordable Care Act marketplace exchanges nationwide have risen about 6 percent for 2015.  Individual policies in New York are expected to rise in price by around 5.5 percent.

Mark Dunlea of Single Payer NY and the Hunger Action Network of New York State says state officials certainly deserve credit for having done a better job rolling out the New York Exchange than the federal government has done, but when all is said and done...   "...unfortunately, it's still health insurance, and the focus of health insurance, unfortunately, is profit for the insurance companies, not necessarily medical care for those paying for the insurance. Many people still find that the co-pays and deductibles are a real barrier to receiving health care services. And particularly the unions, which tend to have better health care coverage for their members, are finding that they are discriminated against in terms of penalties under the Affordable Care Act."

Dunlea credits Vermont with having already taken a leadership role in making health care a right in its push toward single-payer.

Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack pointed out that last year the national enrollment period spanned October 15th to March 31st; this year it's cut to three months and interrupted by major holidays. Pollack doesn't think the Republican takeover in of the U.S. Senate will impact the Affordable Care Act.   "I'm sure we'll get the repetitive vote about repealing the overall Affordable Care Act, and that's going to fail, whether it will fail in the Senate or if by chance it can pas in the Senate, clearly it will be vetoed by the president and that veto will not be overridden. I think that any of the piecemeal attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act to the extent that they really undermine the architecture of the legislation, I think those too are not going to be enacted into law."

New York's exchange has enrolled 370,604 people with commercial and nonprofit insurers, 525,283 in Medicaid and 64,875 in the state's Child Health Plus coverage for families with moderate incomes. The exchange expects 350,000 new enrollees for 2015. New York has introduced a Spanish language version of its online exchange and is distributing information in eight other languages as well.

Visit NY State of Health's NEW events map at http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/events

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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