By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY A total of 17 insurers have had proposed rates approved by the state for the new health care exchange, which will launch in October.
Consumers will be able to shop for health insurance in four tiers - bronze, silver, gold and platinum, the state announced Wednesday. The approved rates in two highest tiers on average are 53 percent lower than current individual direct-pay rates, according to the state.
WEB EXTRA: Click here to see a list of insurers (A spokesperson for Univera Health says it will be included in the list)
More than a million uninsured New Yorkers are expected to be eligible for health insurance under the exchange, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo created in an executive order last year in accordance with federal health-care reform.
Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday that the new system will allow individuals and businesses to easily compare health insurance plans based on their quality and cost.
"New York's health benefits exchange will offer the type of real competition that helps drive down insurance costs for consumers and businesses," he said. "The opportunity to choose among affordable, quality health insurance options will mean improved health outcomes, stronger economic security, and better peace of mind for New York families."
Along with the Rochester-based Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Aetna, Fidelis Care and United Healthcare are among the insurers with approved rates. Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, which generally serves New York City and the Hudson Valley, also got approval for its rates.
New Yorkers with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- $45,960 for individuals or $94,200 for a family of four -- could qualify for financial assistance that would lower the cost of coverage, according to the governor's office.
Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the 48.6 million Americans without health insurance must obtain it by next year or face a tax penalty. About 2.6 million live in New York.
States must begin enrolling uninsured people in October for coverage that will begin in January. New York's exchange, one of the first to be established, is on track, state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said in a statement.
"The approval of the health plan rates marks a significant milestone for the New York Health Benefit Exchange," Shah said. "The state continues to be on target to begin enrolling consumers and small business owners and their employees in health insurance coverage on October 1, 2013."