NY's health exchange sees improvements, St. Lawrence County 'navigator' says
Sunday, November 17, 2013 - 8:01 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

Despite rampant problems being reported with the U.S. Health Exchange website, New York’s online systems are working well, according to a local expert.

Anne Marie Snell, who works at the St. Lawrence Health Initiative and helps people navigate the newly implemented health care market, says the state website has come a long way since its rocky launch.

Snell said quirks still exist, but the site has “absolutely improved,” and her office has been busy helping people get insured.

Overall, Snell says the majority of people she has worked with have been pleased with the results.

“The majority of people that we have worked with have been pleasantly surprised by their options and the cost,” she said. “There is still some sticker shock around the deductibles on some of the plans - but remembering that the essential health benefits are always covered helps people to understand the true benefits of the insurance.”

New York is one of 25 states that opted to create its own exchange program, meaning many of the problems that have been reported with the federal market are not tied directly to New York’s version.

Officials say early problems with the state’s website caused by high traffic have dissipated in recent weeks and the few computer errors that have risen are linked to information drawn from federal data bases that have been experiencing problems.

Still, even with fewer bugs she said there are certain things people should understand when signing up. Snell said choosing your provider and plan isn’t something you should rush.

“Choosing health insurance is a big decision. We are setting up hour-long appointments with folks, but usually we send them home with their options and set up an additional meeting to pick a plan,” she said. “When you have more than 20 choices, it is certainly something that one should take time to decide.”

She said the process can take up to an hour to complete, but that varies from person to person.

“When you build your income on the marketplace, if you are self-employed, the process takes about 30 minutes to an hour longer than if you are not,” she said.

While the website itself provides the majority of relevant information for comparing policies, Snell said it is a good idea to check the provider websites as well.

“We also use the carriers’ websites directly to determine what providers are in their network -- it seems to work a bit better than on the marketplace right now,” she said.

Snell said people must also read carefully while entering information to reduce the chance of human error.

A key point that Snell said people must be aware of is a small box that must be checked in order to receive subsidies.

“There is a box on the “Build a Household” screen that asks if you want financial assistance for your health insurance -- if you don’t choose yes, then you won’t be eligible for the Insurance Affordability Programs,” she said.

To see what subsidies you might be eligible for, or to sing up for insurance the NY Health Exchange visit https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/.

The deadline for enrolling in Health Insurance for coverage effective Jan. 1, 2014 is Dec. 15.

The Health Initiative will continue to assist individuals, families and small businesses in exploring their options and enrolling in insurance, however, we have been extremely busy with over 100 appointments in the last 30 days.

“We are encouraging those who need insurance by Jan. 1 to call and make an appointment with a navigator as soon as possible,”

Individuals, families and small businesses have extended open enrollment this year into March of 2014. Those who meet with a navigator after Dec. 15, you can get insurance effective Feb. 1, March 1, or April 1.

A calendar of enrollment sites is available at gethealthyslc.org, where appointments can be made.