NY says its health exchange unaffected by federal problems so far

Nov 1, 2013

Amid ongoing problems with the federal health insurance exchange website, New York is one of a handful of states where residents can successfully enroll through the state's health insurance marketplace, according to state officials.

Elisabeth Benjamin, a New York state health navigator, said the site did have some glitches in the first two weeks, but said now she is thrilled with the exchange's success so far.  

"As of last week nearly 200,000 people have completed the application process through our website, which had a few initial glitches the first week, but since then has been rolling great," Benjamin said. "If there was ever a state for Obamacare to work, New York was it."

Benjamin, who has been working in the health insurance industry for 25 years, also said she is happy to finally be able to help people sign up for affordable coverage.

One woman Benjamin personally enrolled was able to purchase health insurance for $77 per month. Benjamin said if this women tried to buy insurance on the open market in 2013, it would have been $1,000 per month.

In addition to registering online, Benjamin said New Yorkers have the options of enrolling on the phone or in person. There are 245 enrollment locations in 61 of New York's 62 counties. Broome County is the only one without an enrollment location.

New York is one of 16 states that has an insurance exchange separate from the federal one.

As for the federal healthcare exchanges website central to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act? It was back up again Thursday, after going down Wednesday night.

Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for CMS, the agency that runs healthcare.gov, says the problem is coming from a back-end data server supporting both the state-based and federal healthcare exchanges. It was only the federal service that went offline Wednesday, and Bataille says upgrades are set to take place over the coming days.

“We do plan for this site to be conducting sort of regular maintenance during off-peak hours," Bataille said. "That is roughly in the one a.m. to five a.m. Eastern window every evening. So again, if any of you happen to be up in those hours and the site’s not working, you should know that that’s sort of our regular maintenance window.”

State exchanges shouldn't be affected by the maintenance.

The launch of the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP website, has also been delayed yet again. SHOP was supposed to open Friday, but Bataille says fixing the current site takes precedence.

“Our priority is to fix the online application and enrollment system for individuals and families," Bataille said. "The SHOP application and enrollment process remains especially important for us, we are on track to have that available by the end of November.”

Unlike the individual insurance exchanges, Bataille says there's no open enrollment window for SHOP. It's a year-round process that small businesses can take advantage of.