There's only a week left in the enrollment period for people to sign up to get health care through the Affordable Care Act. But there’s been a steady flow of central New Yorkers signing up for insurance policies through the New York exchanges in advance of that deadline.
ACR Health in Syracuse has been helping people in a nine-county area sign on to plans. Community Health Director Steve Wood says things have been going well so far, with 3,500 people covered by health insurance who weren’t before.
"That’s a major, major, good, good thing," Wood said. "Sure there’s problems along the way. They seem to get resolved rather quickly though, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens, but it’s working. And I think it’s working better than any other gigantic program put out by the Feds or the state has worked.”
Wood says as the deadline approaches, they are still busy.
“A lot of people are calling us who started applications a long time ago and just let it go, or had problems and let it go, and now they’re calling us to complete them, which is a very quick process,” Wood explained.
Wood says many were signed through expanded Medicaid eligibility. A fraction have been concerned about the cost of the plans.
“But the majority of people we’ve seen have been okay with it," Wood said. "Costs aren’t that bad, but it’s hard to tell what everybody's individual financial situation is. For some people an extra $100 a month is okay. For others we can do $30, $70 a month or less, and for others the cost is high because their income is quite high.”
Wood says the March 31 deadline is also an important one.
“After March 31, if you’re not insured you’re going to face tax penalties, and your insurance you’re going to have to wait for.”
The next enrollment period for health insurance through the exchanges is next fall. Wood emphasizes that deadline doesn’t apply to people who are eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plus, or people who have a life changing event, like a marriage, or the birth of a child.
All in all, Wood says he believes the first six months of the Affordable Care Act should be looked at as part of a big picture.
"I think we have to realize this is a gigantic governmental and statewide program that’s never been done before," Wood said. "And there’s bumps along the way, and new things to learn along the way and new problems. So I don’t know, is it settled? I don’t know, but it’s working and it’s moving along.”