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State health insurance marketplace is here to stay

Ellen Abbott
ACR Health officials answer questions at a press conference Tuesday in Syracuse.

Regardless of politics, New York state will most likely continue with its New York State of Health official health insurance marketplace, according to Steve Wood, director of insurance programs at ACR Health in Syracuse. He said New York is committed to the program that grew out of the Affordable Care Act.

"New York State of Health is self-sustaining and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a big believer that it works,” Wood said. “That’s one of the reasons that New York state went and did this on our own and took the money to make our own marketplace. So, federally, if the Affordable Care Act goes away [and] if the federal marketplace goes away, New York’s going to stay.”

Open enrollment for health care plans began on Monday. This is the fourth year of the Affordable Care Act, and for many in central New York it means logging on to the New York State of Health website to sign up for a new health care plan.

Wood said the good news this year is while rates for plans are increasing, New Yorkers will not see the kind of premium jumps happening in other states.

"New York state has a lot of checks and balances in place to keep insurance under control,” Wood said. “An insurance company may ask for a 46-percent increase, but it has to go before the state Department of Finance, who then negotiates it down. So now we’re looking at increases on plans in New York state around six percent to 11.6 percent.”

Wood also said he is not aware of any insurers who have pulled out of the market in New York state. The tax penalties for people who do not enroll stays about the same at 2.5 percent of an individual's total adjusted gross income or a flat fee that will be adjusted for inflation.

According to ACR Health Navigator Brian Van Benschoten, when the tax penalty was lower the first few years of the program, it made more sense to forgo insurance and pay the taxes. However, rising penalties have people beginning to realize it makes more sense to have the insurance than not because they are spending the money anyways.

Wood recommended young adults on their parents’ on insurance begin to look into signing up for their own plans.

“Are your kids in college? Are you doing a college health plan?” Wood said. “College health plans are not always compliant with the Affordable Care Act, and college plans are very expensive. So let’s have them come through the New York State of Health, and see what they get.”

Insurance rates in New York State in 2017 are up between two and 15 percent depending on the plan. The state’s Essential Plan, with no co-pay, or one as low as $20 remains the same as last year and anyone who needs help can get it from one of the navigators in any of ACR Health’s nine county service area.

January 31, 2017 is the last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. Anyone who is uninsured, or has a plan that is expiring this year, can visit the New York State of Health website to sign up.

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.