New York Congressman Bill Owens of the 21st District held a telephone town hall Thursday evening focused on one issue: the Affordable Care Act.
Northern New York’s Democratic Congressman was joined by a representative of the New York State Department of Health to answer questions from constituents about the Affordable Care Act and New York’s insurance marketplace. Congressman Owens said he wanted to hold such a meeting in order to discuss not only the federal Affordable Care Act, but also talk about the “nuts and bolts” about how the state exchange works. "We’ve had a lot of conversation, nationally about the roll-out of the national exchanges. But we also know that in NYS Governor Cuomo and his departments - insurance and health - have done an excellent job of putting together a well functioning program. We have lots of participation from insurance companies. But what we really want to make sure you have is accurate clear information so that as you reach out to make your decision about health care you have all the available information and you know how to go forward with this process.”
Owens was joined by New York State Department of Health Director of Outreach Sherry Tomasky, who explained that in April 2012, the state created its own exchange called New York State of Health. "New York State’s health plan marketplace is run by New York. It was created by New York. And it is important to understand that this is where New Yorkers will come to look for options for affordable health insurance. While you may have heard a lot of information about the federal run exchange, health care dot gov, be mindful that as a New Yorker, New York State of Health is where you would go for more information.”
Tomasky outlined the operations and application process for the state health exchange and then answered questions from callers across the district. Peter from Lake Placid expressed confusion about how to actually choose a policy. “I don’t know how to pick a policy that best fits my family. I want to be covered for everything." (Tomasky) "When you come to NY State of health, you can research the plans on your own when they are shown to you on our website. In your case you might benefit from the help of one of our navigators that will sit down with you one on one. They will not steer you to one plan or the other. They will help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each for your unique situation.”
“Hi this is Doreen, what kind of information do I need to have to enroll?" (Tomasky) "There is no documentation required. For average applications, you just need to have information about who’s in your house, dates of birth, social security numbers and income information and other financial information that the application will ask you for.”
“Eugene, are you with us? Yes. What is the income cut-off per household for someone to get some assistance on this new health care plan in New York?" (Tomasky) "The income cut-off depends on how many people are in your household. And it’s based upon the federal poverty level. The cut-off is 400% of that federal poverty level. So if you’re a household of four people that 400% of federal poverty is about $92,000 a year.”
“Our next question comes from Carol in Washington County. Thank you, Could a person call the insurance carriers directly?" (Tomasky) "New York State of Health is the only place where financial assistance is available to help you pay for the cost of coverage. However you’re not prohibited from going directly to an insurance carrier and buying a plan directly from them.”
A link to the New York state health exchange is available here.