As Congress continues to debate the shutdown of the Federal Government and the defunding or delay of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, implementation day for this controversial piece of legislation has arrived. Federal and State exchanges or marketplaces opened for business on October 1st and were flooded with hits. Now we will begin to see how this historical bill will roll out and there will be much scrutiny along the way.
Critics will be the first to say that it isn’t working, that it’s too expensive and will continue to call for its repeal. But, for the 2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers, ACA is a way to get insurance that wasn’t otherwise affordable. It is estimated that over 1 million New Yorkers will be able to get health insurance through NY State of Health, the official health plan marketplace, part of the New York State Department of Health. Not only will there be more insured New Yorkers, but it is estimated that the Marketplace will drive down costs by 50%, according to State insurance regulators.
Twenty-three states have pursued state based exchanges either through legislation or executive order and New York is one of them. NY State of Health is an organized marketplace designed to help people shop for and enroll in health insurance coverage. Individuals, families and small businesses will be able to use the Marketplace to help them compare insurance options, calculate costs and select coverage online, in-person, over the phone or by mail. Insurance coverage can be purchased through NY State of Health beginning October 1, 2013 and can be effective starting January 1, 2014.
Think of this as a new way to compare and buy health insurance similar to the way people can compare and buy lots of products like televisions and airplane tickets on sites like Amazon or Kayak.
For individuals and families that had difficulty paying for health insurance in the past, tax credits will be available to those that qualify, to purchase private coverage through the Marketplace. Individuals and families will be able to use the Marketplace to check if they are eligible for free or low cost health insurance coverage through current New York State programs (like Child Health Plus or Medicaid). If they are eligible, they also will be able to enroll in these programs through the Marketplace.
Small businesses that have 50 or fewer employees will be able to use the Marketplace to offer health insurance coverage to their staff and may also be eligible for tax credits for coverage purchased through the Marketplace.
NY State of Health has designated organizations across the City and State as Navigators to help individuals, families and small businesses understand the enrollment process and how to enroll correctly. To find a Navigator in your community click here. If you prefer to enroll yourself there is an online tutorial that can help you navigate the application process.
Now that Obamacare is open for business, the United States is one step closer to having affordable health insurance for all. This will be felt most by the working poor who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to afford insurance on their own. Experts say that costs will dramatically decrease, truly making care affordable for all. Over 2 million New Yorkers have already entered the NY State of Health site, you should too if you have long been looking for affordable health insurance.
Contributed by Shana Mosher of the Human Services Council.