affordable care act

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The deadline to file your tax return is just under two months away. As many Americans file, they’re finding there are more questions about health insurance on the annual tax forms than ever before based on changes in place because of the Affordable Care Act.
 

In New York, and several other states, people who find they owe a penalty on their 2014 tax return will now have a special enrollment period to sign up for health coverage.

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  The final number of New Yorkers who signed up for health insurance through the state exchange this year tops a half a million.

New York State of Health Marketplace is claiming more than 564 thousand new enrollees for 2015. Add that to last year’s numbers and more than 2.1 million people have used the state exchange for health insurance in the first 2 years of the Affordable Care Act.

Donna Frescatore is the Executive Director of the state marketplace. She’s says a close to 90 percent renewal rate for people with private health plans points to stability.

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  The deadline to enroll for coverage through the state’s health insurance plan was Sunday. New Yorkers who started applications before the cutoff still have until the end of the month to finish them.
 

But state health officials are also considering adding a special enrollment period for people who have not yet filed their 2014 tax return. Consumer advocacy groups are asking for just that as many Americans file returns and see that they may owe money on their federal taxes.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The deadline is approaching to sign up for health insurance for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and one Syracuse agency that signs people up for plans wants to make sure the word about that deadline is out.

February 15 is the last day that individuals can buy health insurance during this year’s open enrollment period. People who don’t meet that deadline will face a tax penalty.

Steve Wood, of ACR Health in Syracuse, expects there will be people who won’t meet the deadline.

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  Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the New York State of Health marketplace has reached a milestone. 

Of the more than two million New Yorkers who have signed up for health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2013, more than 400,000 signed up during the current open enrollment period.

The vast majority of them — some 89 percent –are new to health insurance.

Many of the state’s low-income population have turned to the health marketplace. Nearly two-thirds of total enrollees are on Medicaid. The remainder signed up for private insurance plans.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) was one of three House of Representative Republicans who voted this week against a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Katko has said all along that he wouldn't vote for a full-scale repeal, unless there is an alternative to the sweeping health care law.

The congressman says Republican leadership was aware of how he would vote. In a statement following the vote, Katko said he was disappointed that the bill didn't provide a real solution to the rising costs of health care.

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Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says there is a shortcoming in health insurance for disabled veterans that’s depriving their children of coverage.

Family members of disabled military service members are allowed to receive health coverage under a Veterans Administration program called CHAMPVA. But Schumer says that program needs to be amended to be in line with the rest of the health care world under the Affordable Care Act.

Captain America, the superhero, may not be the guy most people associate with health insurance, but Sherry Tomasky of New York State of Health says he can still help their cause by catching the attention of people of all ages.

"They remember these from when they were kids and now their own children are enjoying a resurgence of these characters," said Tomasky.

Captain America is just one of many masked heroes that have been spotted at shopping malls around the state. Thanks to a partnership with Marvel, Tomasky says they've been able to reach a whole new demographic.

Health exchange official pleased with state sign-ups

Jan 8, 2015
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Traffic on the New York State of Health website is holding steady following the first deadline for open enrollment.

Donna Frescatore, executive director of the New York State of Health Benefit Exchange, is pleased with the numbers of New Yorkers signing up for health insurance on the marketplace.

New York State Health Department officials saw an increase in the numbers of enrollees in time to get covered at the start of the New Year. Frescatore says she expects more high traffic days as the next deadlines roll around.

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Newly sworn-in Rep. John Katko has already attached his name to an effort to repeal the medical device tax.

The tax on medical equipment manufactured in the United States was tacked on to the Affordable Care Act as a way to pay for the health care overhaul. But it’s angered device makers, like Welch Allyn in Skaneateles. The company attributed recent layoffs to the tax’s impact.

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With a month and a half left in the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, professionals who help connect New Yorkers with insurance see a change in how individuals approach health coverage this year.

Many health insurance professionals say New Yorkers understand Obamacare better this year.

Jeff Welcher, account consultant with Rochester-area Bene-Care, says choosing a plan is still not a decision to be taken lightly.

Healthcare open enrollment poses challenges for some

Dec 26, 2014
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For those with variable incomes, signing up for health insurance on the New York State of Health Marketplace can be tricky.

The application asks for information about income to help determine whether an individual qualifies for an advanced premium tax credit. In the case of a sole proprietor, it may not be clear how much they will make in any given year.

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High traffic on the New York State of Health website is to be expected, according to the head of the state exchange. Saturday is the deadline to sign up for health insurance that starts the first of the year.

So far, during this open enrollment period which started Nov. 15, more than 194,000 New Yorkers who didn't have health insurance have signed up.

Donna Frescatore, the executive director of the New York Health Benefit Exchange, says more than 40,000 of those were added since last week.

NY State of Health enrollment deadline extended

Dec 15, 2014
Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The national deadline to enroll in health care during the second year of open enrollment is today, December 15, but New York state has extended the deadline through Saturday, December 20.

If you plan to use the New York State of Health Marketplace to sign up for health care, you have five more days to enroll if you want your coverage to start on January 1. The extension applies for new or renewing coverage.

New Yorkers largely satisfied with new health insurance

Nov 18, 2014
WXXI File

Last month, Harris Poll conducted an online survey of 250 New York State residents new to insurance through the state exchange.

Ninety-two percent of those polled report being somewhat or completely satisfied with their coverage.

David Sandman, senior vice president of the New York State Health Foundation, says they were surprised by some of the results.

Open enrollment begins with window shopping

Nov 17, 2014
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The second year of open enrollment for health insurance in both state and federal exchanges began over the weekend.

U.S. Health and Human Services opened HealthCare.gov early with a new “window-shopping” feature.

Jessica Kendall, director of the Enrollment Assister Network for FamiliesUSA, says the changes intend to make the process of purchasing health insurance easier.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period begins Saturday. One Syracuse agency is getting ready to help people who want to sign up or make a change in their health insurance policies.

In the first year of the Affordable Care Act, ACR Health in Syracuse signed up 8,000 central New Yorkers through the New York State of Health website, and about 6,000 of those people completed their health insurance enrollment. Now it’s time for the agency to get back to work during the next open enrollment period.

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Officials for the New York State Health Exchange say $27 million will go to help residents connect with insurance -- the same amount as last year. The state health department says it’s ready for the second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, starting November 15.

National health care advocates worry that most states will be investing less on support staff to help sign people up for insurance, than was invested last year.

Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, health equity director at Families USA, says the second year of the ACA open enrollment will need resources.

Mercy Health / Flickr

The Syracuse.com/Post-Standard/Siena College poll shows 17 percent of potential voters surveyed say health care is the most important issue to them.  In recent interviews, the two candidates in the 24th Congressional District race say there are good things and bad things about it.  

Democrat two-term Rep. Dan Maffei voted for the Affordable Care Act back in 2010, and he says he still supports the reforms that came with it.  But he admits there are problems.

During the last two elections New York and Pennsylvania Republicans campaigned on repealing and replacing so-called Obamacare – but House Republicans have yet to vote on a replacement plan.

Remember “repeal and replace”? It’s the campaign slogan that helped Republicans gain control of the House in 2010 and keep that majority in 2012. House leaders have done what they can to repeal the law – the GOP has cast more than 40 votes to scrap or defund all or part of the Affordable Care Act. But where’s the replacement?

ACR Health in Syracuse is getting a lot of calls from people who signed up for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and are worried their health insurance costs are rising. But the experts who signed hundreds of people up for insurance in central New York say not to worry.

March 31 was the busiest day for New York's new health insurance marketplace. It was also the final day of the six month open enrollment period.

Almost 470,000 people visited the site and 39,000 signed up on that last day, according to the state's exchange, to bring the total to 926,000 enrolled.

Those newly covered signed up for a combination of the expanded federal Medicaid program, Child Health Plus, or a private provider.

The exchange is crediting its early success in enrollment with a functioning website, something the federal exchange was plagued with.

While touring a firefighter station in the Southern Tier town of Vestal recently, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) touted legislation that would exempt volunteer firefighters from the Affordable Care Act. The announcement comes a month after the U.S. Treasury Department already made the change.

Originally, the ACA counted volunteer firefighters as full-time employees. That would have made the Vestal fire stations and others around the country responsible to provide healthcare if they had more the 50 employees.

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.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Cortland County has started a "Countdown to Coverage," to try and get the word out about the next major deadline for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

According to Lindy Glennon of the Cortland County Community Action Program, the next important date in the Affordable Care Act timeline is March 31, which is a little over three weeks away. March 31 is the last day to enroll in health coverage through the New York State of Health marketplace, without facing penalties.

People who are finding it difficult to pay for a health insurance policy offered through New York sate’s health care exchanges, may find a more affordable plan, if a proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget goes through.

The governor’s proposed spending plan would allow New York to offer what’s called a "basic health care plan," according to Mary Clark, regional director of Citizen Action League of New York.

“That would really opens the doors to provide coverage at extremely low cost to families at 200 percent of poverty,” she said.

There are less than two months left for people to sign on to a health insurance plan and avoid tax penalties for not having insurance in 2014.  

Steve Wood, community health coordinator of the ACR Health Syracuse office, said they are continuing outreach in nine counties in central New York, encouraging people to get help from specially trained navigators who can help with the process.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Today is the deadline for individuals to sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act in order to get coverage by Jan. 1. So far, New York state’s experience with this groundbreaking change in the way Americans get health care coverage has been generally positive.

Todd Muscatello is a Vice President for Sales at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Syracuse. As someone who deals in the vagaries of health insurance every day, he says he's glad he lives in New York state.  

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.

There are only five days left for individuals to enroll in new health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, if they want that coverage to begin Jan. 1. But central New York insurers are urging people to avoid waiting until the last minute.

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