New Yorkers who want to choose a health insurance policy with coverage starting Jan. 1 have until Friday to sign up on the state insurance marketplace.
The marketplace, nystateofhealth.ny.gov, enrolls individuals and small businesses in both subsidized and unsubsidized health plans, and is the only place for eligible people to get subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The enrollment deadline is Jan. 31 for coverage starting March 1. New York’s exchange offers six weeks longer to enroll than on the federal exchange used in 39 states, HealthCare.gov, where enrollment ends Friday.
The Trump administration supported unsuccessful efforts this summer to repeal and replace the ACA, and cut its enrollment period in half while slashing advertising funds. It also eliminated subsidies to insurers to offset the costs of providing eligible enrollees with lowered deductibles and copays.
People who already have a health plan through the marketplace can be automatically re-enrolled in their existing plan, if it’s available. They have until Friday to switch plans, and update income information.
As of Dec. 6, the state Health Department said enrollment on the state exchange was up by 13 percent over last year at this time, with almost 900,000 signed up. The majority have enrolled in the Essential Plan, a Medicaid-funded plan offered by the state to individuals whose income is too high for Medicaid and too low for other qualified health plans. Enrollment in the Essential Plan is open all year.
According to the department, more than 66,000 new enrollees signed up by Dec. 6, including over 23,000 who signed up for a qualified health plan and almost 43,000 for the Essential Plan. Total enrollment was 876,000, including nearly 710,000 in the Essential Plan and over 166,000 in qualified health plans for 2018.
“We’ve been very busy, we’re getting a good response,” said Janine Logan, a spokesman for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, which is helping Long Islanders enroll through the NY State of Health marketplace at various locations and events. “People are a bit concerned about what might happen to the exchanges with all the uncertainty, because it is an affordable option for them. So we’ll see what Congress decides to do.”
Under the ACA, families earning between 200 percent and 250 percent of federal poverty level qualify for both out-of-pocket cost reductions, as well as tax credits to lower the cost of premiums in the individual marketplace. Those earning over 250 percent but less than 400 percent of the poverty level in 2018 — between $12,060 and $48,240 for an individual, and $24,600 and $98,400 for a family of four — are eligible for the tax credits, which can be used in advance to lower premium payments or on federal tax returns.
Households earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid, and up to 200 percent for the Essential Plan.
On Long Island, Fidelis Care, Health First, Oscar, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, Emblem and UnitedHealthcare are on the marketplace offering bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans. According to Donna Frescature, executive director of NY State of Health, the silver plan is most popular “by far” because it offers the cost-sharing reductions to lower out-of-pocket expenses for those who are eligible. The tax credits and subsidies make premiums affordable, she said, although families with no assistance take the brunt of premium increases.
In New York, 350,000 children are insured through Child Health Plus, a low-cost, subsidized program for eligible children funded under a federal program that expired in September. Unless Congress opts to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, 8.9 million children nationally could lose coverage, or, if their parents’ earnings are low enough, be switched into Medicaid. A federal commission that advises Congress estimated that New York State could run out of funds for Child Health Plus in March.
Representatives of the state marketplace will hold informational events across the state to help people enroll. Events are listed on the website. On Wednesday, events are set for the South Country Library in Bellport from 3 to 6 p.m.; at the Long Island Cares centers in Freeport, Huntington Station and Lindenhurst from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and at HRHCare Health Center of Patchogue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday’s events are at libraries in Lindenhurst and Long Beach from 2 to 6 p.m., and at Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greenport from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council will host additional events Wednesday at South Nassau Community Hospital’s admitting office from noon to 3:30 p.m. and the Baldwin Public Library noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. On Friday, they’ll be at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Call the Council at 631-656-9783 for more information.