Tag Archives: health insurance

Affordable Care Act: Exchange sign up starts October 1

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

The first dose of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is nearly ready to start rolling.

People can sign up for health insurance through the Health Care Marketplace starting on Tuesday, October 1, which will take effect when provisions of the legislation start on January 1, 2014.

The sign-up period will continue until March 31, and consumers can apply for Marketplace coverage online, by mail or in-person.

The Marketplaces work either through individual state health departments or with the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 36 states. In New York consumers have to go to www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov if they want to apply for coverage under the Marketplace.

Prices and applications in the Marketplace will be available on October 1.

The exchanges are designed to help people find lower premiums. The system gathers all available insurance options in the state and rates them in a simple structure– bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans will be the cheapest with the fewest benefits, while platinum will be the most expensive.

This week the national health department released a report that said the plans on the exchanges will make insurance premiums on average more affordable.

Obamacare will force companies to drop discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, so for example people with diabetes or asthma won’t be charged larger premiums or refused coverage.

Some provisions of the health care reform act are already in action, such as children being able to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

Since the legislation was designed to help people without insurance find coverage by making it more affordable, if someone already has a private health care plan or receives care through another method, such as a company plan, they will not need to apply for a new plan from the exchanges.

Someone who does not have health insurance by January 1 will have to pay a fee of one percent of their income or $95, whichever is higher, and the fee for each uninsured child is $47.50, with a cap of $285 per family. This fee will increase every year, but there are ways to be exempted, such as being a member of a religious sect that has objections to insurance.

Republican leaders have been trying to delay Obamacare, saying that it will be too costly and raise taxes. Senator Ted Cruz held a marathon 21-hour speech in opposition to the legislation from Tuesday, September 24 to September 25.

For more information visit: https://www.healthcare.gov.



Three weeks in, health insurance reinstated for Con Ed workers

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Three weeks after contract negotiations began between Con Ed and representatives from the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, the utility giant reinstated health coverage for its 8,500 locked out workers.

Local 1-2 spokesperson John Melia claimed the company’s decision to cut off health insurance at the start of the lockout was illegal.

“They broke the law, we caught them at it and they put insurance back in place,” said Melia. “They knew they broke the law. They knew they were in the wrong.”

According to Melia, Con Ed cost state unemployment assistance agencies millions of dollars after refusing to pay for workers’ benefits, forcing them to look elsewhere for help. Melia added that since the company is self-insured, revoking benefits was a “double crime against the 8,500 New York families” affected during the lockout.

“They don’t care about their customers and they don’t care about their workers,” said Melia. “How are they getting away with charging the people of New York to throw workers on the street?”

According to a Con Ed spokesperson, employees who worked after midnight on June 30 — the day the contract ran out –- continued to receive health care through the month of July. Those who did not work past the first of the month were released from their company-offered insurance and instead presented with the option of purchasing benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) — a Department of Labor-sponsored program that provides dismissed or laid-off workers and their families benefits. The representative said only a very small number of workers retained coverage in the interim.

On July 15, Con Ed officials notified union leadership after deciding to reinstate coverage for all locked out workers through July. Medical costs incurred during the course of the lockout will also be covered. The official did not say why Con Ed executives came to this conclusion.

Neither side could say whether or not talks had progressed any further.

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.”