NYS health exchange leads others in the country

By Matt Porter

November 26, 2013 Updated Nov 26, 2013 at 7:51 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Despite the mess of the federal health exchange, locals say New York's health exchange has performed well.

"I would rank it about a "B" in terms of how functional it is," said Roy Williams who is a part-time web designer.

Williams said he waited for a few weeks before signing on, and then proceeded to complete the process in stages.

"Rather than doing it in one sitting, and just going for an hour and half to two hours," Williams said. "I did about six days in a row where I got on for about 20 minutes."

He encountered a few minor errors, including a problem at the final step.

"The very last step there was a glitch," he said. "When we were choosing a plan it didn't have a final submit button."

Williams found help over the phone and signed on for his health plan.

The complexity of the website has made New York's "health navigators" extremely important.

Navigators are certified organizations by the Department of Health to help assist individuals and businesses sign up for health insurance.

Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network in Binghamton is one location in Broome County, director Sharon Chesna said the office has been flooded with calls.

She said most people underestimate how long the process really will take.

"It is a lengthy process to go through, so nobody's going to fly through it," Chesna said.

She said many of the problems her non-profit encounters when signing individuals up are basic.

"We're assisting some individuals for getting their emails for the first time," Chesna said.

60 percent of Mothers and Babies phone calls since the exchange open have been from people looking to sign up.

"Those who weren't eligible," Chesna said, "Or couldn't afford insurance, they've been waiting for this."

Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Health Insurance Programs Donna Frescatore said the state has learned a lot since two million people viewed the site in the first two hours crashing the exchange.

"We've learned as we go forward here day by day on how we can make that experience easier for all consumers," Frescatore said.

More than 76,000 people have signed up in New York since.

The state is on track for its goal of signing up 1.1 million by 2016.

For those like Williams who have signed up for new health plans, the coverage looks good.

"From what it looks like, it looks better," Williams said.

But whether the plans will be cheaper in the long term, remains unseen.

Cost of insurance plans in New York exchange
The price of plans depend on the amount of people in a household and the combined total income.

Plans are rated from platinum to bronze. Higher tier plans have higher premiums but lower deductibles.

Each plan must meet certain minimum standards.

Insurance broker Rose DiVirgilio said the new insurance exchanges will greatly reduce costs for older and sicker individuals while younger, healthier people would see a slight increase in premiums.

Due to new standards and regulations, experts say comparing old insurance plans to new ones for price is not equatable.

It will take a few years to see if the new standards lower the rate of insurance increases.

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