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New York prepares to open Affordable Care Act health exchange

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

In less than two weeks, the health exchanges that are an integral part of the Affordable Care Act will go into business in New York state, but officials are already starting to hear from residents who want to know how this will affect their health care.

On Monday, the state Health Department opened up the customer service call center for New York State of Health, the website where you can shop, compare and buy health plans under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. The first hour it was open, there were 200 calls according to Kyle Kotary, marketing director of New York State of Health.

"We didn't know what to expect," Kotary said. "We were pleasantly surprised at the number of people who called in right away. It showed there was a high level of interest and a high level of need. A lot of people who called are looking for low cost insurance coverage."

He says so far, calls have been overwhelmingly positive about the program meant to provide health insurance for all New Yorkers.

Kotary says many people who've called so far are well informed and have specific questions, but he admits that there is still a good deal of confusion about these exchanges and how they work. Sign-ups begin October 1, which is also the first day of a statewide campaign to get the message out, with everything from bus signs to Facebook pages, encouraging individuals and small businesses  to enroll into these health insurance plans.

"We're really driving people to three key points," Kotary said. "One to the enrollment website, two to our customer service line, and three to in-person navigators, brokers and assisters in their communities."

Officials estimate there are 2.6 million uninsured New Yorkers, and are hoping to get at least 1.1 million of those people enrolled over the next few years.

You can call 1-855-355-5777 or go to http://www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov to get more information.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.