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Health navigators say Affordable Care Act sign-ups have been successful

There may be problems in other states for people signing up for health care under the Affordable Care Act, but things are moving smoothly in New York state, according to one organization in the midst of it. ACR Health in Syracuse says it has nothing but success stories.

Health navigator Christine Dwyer is helping people in Onondaga and Oswego counties sign up for plans. Among the success stories she's seen include one couple who'd recently retired, but weren't old enough to be eligible for Medicare. They'd been paying $1,400 a year for health insurance. Dwyer got that knocked down to just under $400.

"Once I got all their information in the system, and all their deductions, they came to find out they had a cost sharing reduction and a tax credit," Dwyer said. "And I gotta tell you the lady jumped up in joy and gave me the hugest hug after, because they couldn't afford to pay it anymore, it was killing them."

Dwyer says having a face-to-face navigator is important in reaching many people.

"You know, a lot of people who are reaching out to us don't have computers at home, or the technology they do have is not working correctly, like they have a bad browser; you're not getting into the site correctly," Dwyer said. "They call us and I'm glad to help. I'm making it easy for them. And when they get through the system, they can't believe how easy I made it for them."

These are the kind of stories ACR Community Health Coordinator Steve Wood says is typical. The agency is providing advice to people across a nine county region, stretching west of Syracuse, east into the Mohawk Valley, and up into the North Country.

"We have about 100 people who are fully enrolled," Wood said. "We have another 80 or 90 who are thinking about plans, and have taken them home to think about what they want to do, do they want to purchase."

Wood admits there were some initial paperwork glitches after the first week, but in three weeks since then, the sign up rate has been impressive.

"There had been a couple of problems verifying identities," Wood said. "We would get to a certain point and we couldn't verify someone's county. Simple things like that."

Wood says New York state is partially immune to some of the problems being reported nationally about people signing up for health care, because it created its own health insurance exchange. New York is one of 17 states that developed its own exchanges.

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.