Health Exchange will make insurance more accessible


| brennison@queenscourier.com |

The governor issued an executive order recently establishing a statewide health insurance exchange after the state legislature failed to pass the bill last year.
Governor Andrew Cuomo established the New York Health Benefit Exchange on Thursday, April 12 saying, “The bottom line is that creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments and individual New Yorkers across the state.”

The statewide health care exchange will allow individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance through a state marketplace, and will comply with President Barack Obama’s health care plan. If a state did not institute one by January 2014, it would be enrolled in the federal program.

More than 2.7 million New Yorkers are uninsured, costing the state and local governments more than $600 million per year — this adds an additional $800 in premiums to a family’s average cost every year, the governor’s office said.

“The sky-high cost of insurance in New York is driving businesses out of the state and preventing lower income New Yorkers from being able to afford needed coverage,” Cuomo said. “Establishing the health exchange will bring true competition into the health care marketplace, driving costs down across the state.”

Twelve other states have established health insurance exchanges since the president enacted the Affordable Care Act in March 2010; two of the dozen states’ exchanges were also instituted through an executive order.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed the New York Health Benefit Exchange in June, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not vote on the measure prior to the ending of the year’s legislative session.

The exchange will be created within the state’s Health Department as opposed to as a separate entity, as was originally proposed in the legislation.

“During these tough economic times, access to quality, affordable health care is more important than ever,” said Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York. “By creating New York’s Health Insurance Exchange, over 1 million people who don’t have health coverage will.”