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State health benefit exchange preps for opening

New York State's health-benefit change is scheduled to

New York State's health-benefit change is scheduled to open for enrollment on Oct. 1 to uninsured individuals and small business owners with fewer than 50 employees. Photo Credit: iStock

Reminiscent of Billy Joel's famous tune, the state Department of Health yesterday announced the name for its health benefit exchange: NY State of Health.

The agency also published the final list of health insurers who will be operating on the state's exchange.

The exchange -- a marketplace for health insurance plans -- is set to open for enrollment on Oct. 1 to uninsured individuals and small business owners with fewer than 50 employees as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. The state projects it will enroll 1.1 million New Yorkers, including 150,000 Long Islanders; insurance coverage will start on Jan. 1.

"We wanted a name that was uniquely New York," said Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health "We wanted something that New Yorkers can have an emotional connection to -- something more aspirational.".

Had they thought of singer-songwriter Joel's iconic tune, "New York State of Mind"? No, Frescatore said, but "I can understand the connection."

In Nassau, nine insurers will be offering plans for individuals: Affinity Heath Plan; Empire BlueCross BlueShield; Fidelis Care; Freelancers Co-Op (doing business as Health Republic); Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (EmblemHealth); Healthfirst New York; North Shore-LIJ; Oscar Insurance; and United Healthcare.

In Suffolk, eight of those insurers will offer plans; Healthfirst New York will not be offered there.

Three insurers will sell insurance to small businesses in both Nassau and Suffolk: Freelancers Co-Op dba Health Republic; North Shore-LIJ, and United Healthcare (Oxford).

On July 17, the state Department of Financial Services announced the approved health insurance plan rates for insurers who wanted to be on the exchange. Frescatore said Aetna withdrew from the exchange, which she said it did in several other states.

Plans will be available in four tiers and will cover an array of services, from doctors' visits to hospital stays to prescription drugs. Some plans will offer additional benefits such as adult dental and vision coverage. Individuals and families with incomes below certain levels -- $45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for a family of four -- may be eligible for federal tax credits through the exchange. People can estimate their eligibility for credits online at

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