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2.1 M Enroll In NY's Health Exchange


Health exchange directors from New York and other states came together this week to review successes, analyze practices, and provide the latest enrollment numbers, as the second open enrollment period comes to a close.

In the fourth and final teleconference in this 2014-15 cycle, hosted by pro-Obamacare group FamiliesUSA, the directors looked back at the second health coverage enrollment period, which began on November 15th. They discussed some of the lessons learned this year, and outlined plans to help spur future enrollment.

Up to 6 million Americans were expected to face the Affordable Care Act penalty for not having health insurance in 2014. Enrollment in the exchanges operated by New York, other states and the federal government officially ended on Sunday, but Massachusetts pushed back its deadline to February 23 following recent disruptive winter weather.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell:    "The story of this open enrollment was written by millions of Americans who came to the marketplace, evaluated their choices, signed-up for and were re-enrolled in quality, affordable health coverage.  As of Sunday at midnight, about 11.4 million Americans selected marketplace plans or were automatically re-enrolled, including about 8.6 million through  HealthCare.gov."

Friday, the Obama administration granted individuals and families extra time to purchase a plan this year.

Donna Frescatore is the Executive Director of New York Health Benefit Exchange, which already gave some enrollees an extension.   "We're gonna give folks 'til the end of February, the close of business on February 28th, to finish up their application and get coverage for 2015 and to reduce or avoid, depending on when they come in,  any tax penalty that they might otherwise be subject to in 2015."

There are no official projections as to how many people will sign up during the national special enrollment period.    "Depending on the timing of the opening and closing of the special enrollment period, it doesn't necessarily mean that an individual will not have any tax penalty in 2015. We believe effective days of enrollment should be prospective unless there are circumstances specific. And that means people will have, perhaps have some liability for tax penalty, it just won't be the full penalty that they would have if they had been not able to enroll for any part of 2015."

Frescatore adds more than 2.1 million New Yorkers signed up for health insurance by the "official" end of the second open enrollment period.   "We're right on target with projections and have a robust plan to move forward through the next enrollment period."

Critics continue to disagree, as evidenced by regular defunding votes in the House, but from the Obama administration's viewpoint, the Affordable Care Act is clearly a success. Again, Sylvia Burwell:   "The Affordable Care Act is now an important part of the everyday lives of millions of Americans. They finally have the financial and health security that comes with affordable health coverage. They now can fill prescriptions and take their children to the doctor. Some no longer have to choose between paying for health care and paying their utility bill.  And it’s not just the people in the marketplace counting on it.  It’s the relief we see in the eyes of millions of parents who can cover their young adult children on their own health plan – and the security these young Americans have as they begin their careers."

An estimated 150,000 Americans who have started a HealthCare.gov application have until Sunday to finish it for coverage that starts March 1st.

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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