Health insurance exchange seen to lower premiums for 2.6 M uninsured New Yorkers

By Cristina DC Pastor

Chona V., a nanny, has been coughing a lot lately her employers decided to send her to their doctor. She was diagnosed as having a mild case of allergy and told to take three days off to rest.

Her employers picked up the tab of $175, but it was not a surprise for Chona to see the amount deducted from her next pay check.

“Ganyan talaga (That’s how it is),” said the 55-year-old from Quezon City who has been babysitting for the same Upper East Side family for almost eight years. “It’s hard without health insurance.”

On October 1, New York’s Health Benefit Exchange will be in effect, which means New York residents like Chona could possibly gain access to insurance coverage by becoming a member.

The exchange is a “marketplace” where 2.6 million uninsured New Yorkers buy insurance plans after comparing products from about 15,000 providers, said health advocate Elisabeth Benjamin, co-founder of the Health Care for All New York coalition. The exchange will be available on two fronts: via a website and through call centers.

“It’s kinda like a Costco,” said Benjamin in a briefing for members of the community and ethnic media organized by New America Media. Bringing together all insurance providers and their products in one exchange will have the effect of lowering monthly premiums, she said.

Between 2000 and 2009, health insurance premiums in New York State grew by 92 percent even as employers have cut back on coverage or dropped them altogether.

“Nearly 800,000 small business workers lost coverage,” she said. “One in three New Yorkers had to forego health care or going to the doctor because it’s too expensive.”

Benjamin further stated that of the 2.6 million uninsured population, 50 percent are adults who work full-time jobs.

The health benefit exchange (also called health insurance exchange) is provided for under the universal health care insurance law – or Affordable Care Act – passed in 2010. Under the law, derisively known as “Obamacare,” all Americans should be able to access health care, said Benjamin. Nineteen states have moved forward with their version of the exchange, and New York sees the wisdom in moving along with them.

As a member of the exchange, insurance costs could drop by 66 percent for an individual paying $1,200 a month or a family of four with a monthly premium of $3,400. For small businesses, the decline in cost is anywhere from 5 percent to 22 percent.

Subsidies are offered to individuals enrolled in the exchange with an income below the federal poverty level of $25,975. Their maximum annual premium cost is estimated at $520!

The exchange is an organized marketplace “where you compare products apples to apples,” said Sara Rothstein, assistant director of policy and planning of the New York State Heath Benefit Exchange.

All New Yorkers are eligible if they are under 65 years of age, and are legal residents, she said. The exchange expects to provide coverage to at least 1 million New Yorkers or nearly half the uninsured population.

The eligibility casts aside Chona, who is an undocumented immigrant. She wants to know what type of insurance coverage applies to undocumented immigrants.

NEXT: Filipino Americans rank high in insurance coverage.

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  1. […] Health insurance exchange seen to lower premiums for 2.6 M uninsured New Yorkers […]

  2. […] October 1st, New York State will embark on an aggressive outreach and education campaign for a Health Insurance Exchange, as it prepares for the full-scale implementation of ACA on January 1, […]

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