ACR Health rallies to register people into state healthcare exchange

Dec 19, 2013

As the deadline for health insurance plan applications approaches, one agency that’s offering individuals help with the process is finding itself very busy. ACR Health in Syracuse has exceeded expectations as far as signing people up in the state healthcare exchanges.

According to navigator Brian Vanbenschoten, ACR has already helped more than 1,100 people sign up for health insurance plans that will go into effect Jan. 1. That’s 300 more than the agency anticipated at this time.

"We were expecting to have 800 at this point, just because of the nuances of the system the fact that it is brand new," Vanbenschoten said. "The first couple of weeks were terrible. You can ask anyone around here and they will confirm that. So we’ve only been doing this now for about eight weeks.”

He says many people need help because it's an area they’ve never had to deal with before.

"They’ve always had employer based insurance or insurance through a spouse, so they’ve never had to really look at what the policy benefits are," Vanbenschoten said. "And when you get into that sometimes, when you’re looking at comparing two different companies and the way companies term their policies, the language they use doesn’t always make sense and it doesn’t look the same from one insurance company to the next."

Vanbenschoten also says there are some particular challenges signing people up throughout nine counties in central New York.

"The hardest people to get to are the rural families a little bit," Vanbenschoten said. "People that are out in the country and it’s 20 minutes to get anyplace, even though it’s reasonable for us to be at.”

He adds that the recent spate of snow has also made it tough for people to reach individuals.

The deadline for signing up for individuals who want coverage Jan. 1 is Monday, Dec. 23. Between now and then Vanbenschoten says navigators will be working long days. ACR Health is one of several organizations that has navigators who will help people sign on to a health care policy through the New York State of Health Marketplace.