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ACR Health readies for Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period

Ellen Abbott
Members of ACR Health cut the ribbon to their new office on West Genesee Street in Syracuse.

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.

Community Health Coordinator Steve Wood says people should review their health insurance options at this time.

“Let us run you through the system," Wood said. "Let's see what’s offered for you. If you came and saw us last year, come again. If your income has changed, let's put that through, let's see if you need better insurance, less insurance, more insurance. Let's see what your needs are.”

Wood says while the policies themselves won’t change, the prices have.

"But they’ve only gone up two to three (percent), I think 10 percent is the maximum," Wood said. "But that’s the only change, is just the cost of the plans.”

Wood says the penalty for having no insurance is also higher than it was during the first year.

“Last year, for 2014, the tax penalty was $95, or one percent of your income," Wood explained. "For 2015, the penalty is $275 or two percent of your income, so it increases by the year.”

During the program's first year, areas like Onondaga and Oneida Counties saw higher numbers of people sign up than some more rural areas, something Wood wants to see change in year two.

“That’s probably one of the things we did learn this year," Wood said. "That here it is, here’s the program, we’re doing it. But it also takes us stomping up and down the street, doing outreach.”

ACR health has opened a new office on West Genesee Street in Syracuse, where navigators meet with people who want to sign up for a health plan through New York state. The open enrollment period lasts through the end of February.

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.