The State of Affordable Health Insurance in New York

September 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

On October 1, healthcare exchanges, a cornerstone of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, will open for enrollment.   In New York, individuals, families and small business employees will be able to compare and apply for various coverage plans through the state’s health insurance marketplace, dubbed “New York State of Health“.

With opening day for the exchanges less than a week away, one of the biggest questions has become how more than two and a half million uninsured New Yorkers  who need insurance will know where to buy it.

New York is one of 17 states which opted to build its own exchange, while 7 states planned for partnership exchanges and 27 states chose to default to a federally-facilitated exchange.  The state received nearly $27 million in federal subsidies to help set up its marketplace.  The Community Service Society of New York is one of fifty umbrella organizations deputized by the state to facilitate the outreach effort – also known as Navigators, or In-Person Assisters.  Navigators will train and educate a network of agencies around the state to help people enroll before the March 31, 2014 deadline.  The organization’s Vice President of Health Initiatives, Elisabeth Benjamin, told MetroFocus reporter Rick Karr:

“We will be out stationed at various sites, whether they’re hospitals, community health centers, small business-serving groups like the chambers of commerce. […] We’re reaching out to elected official constituent services staff.  So there’s this real sort of word of mouth effort that’s happening.”

In Queens, staff at The Floating Hospital are also preparing for the marketplace’s debut.  CEO Sean Granahan believes that Obamacare won’t have much impact on the core demographic of The Floating Hospital, a nonprofit clinic which supports homeless and low-income individuals and families.  “I think we’ll see more Medicaid patients on the one hand, and yet more Medicaid patients will be falling into the exchange rates,” Granahan told Karr.  “So I think you’ll see the same pot of people, they’re just going to be reclassified into other areas.”

MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman spoke with Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, Avik Roy, and President of the United Hospital Fund of New York, Jim Tallon, about the big picture trends which are fueling the affordable care debate.

According to Roy, author of Forbes’ healthcare and entitlements blog, The Apothecary, the impending healthcare changes are driving more employers to hire part-time workers. “I personally think that it would be good to get rid of the employer mandate,” Roy told Pi Roman.  “I think most advocates of the law, most supporters of the law would agree that it doesn’t have that much impact on coverage, it’s just whether you get it from your employer or whether you get it through the exchange.  And actually it’s a better system, most economics agree, for people to shop for coverage on their own instead of depending on their employers.”

Tallon argued that the “drumbeat” of negative information about Obamacare may prevent people from seeking more information about it.  The Affordable Care Act’s impact on insurance premium rates has been widely debated, with news outlets diverging on the numbers.  An August Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported that unfavorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act among the U.S. public has held relatively steady at 42% since February of this year.

“The critical issue now, in these next months, is just to go out and get people to see how it works for them,” said Tallon.  “If all the negative message keeps people from trying it out, then it’s going to be a self-fulfilling problem.  The issue is, you know, look at it for yourself.”

Watch the full extended version of Rafael Pi Roman’s interview with Avik Roy and Jim Tallon.