By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Nearly 174,000 New Yorkers have applied for health insurance through the state's new exchange program, and 37,030 have fully enrolled, the state Health Department said Wednesday.
It's the first time that the state has detailed how many people have actually enrolled in the program. Previously, they would only say how many had signed up through the state's website, but not how many had actually picked a health provider.
The uninsured customers often found that they were eligible for Medicaid, the federal health insurance for the poor and disabled, the state said.
About 23,717 of the new enrollees discovered they could get Medicaid because of their income levels; New York has more than 5 million people on Medicaid. The rest of the new enrollees, 13,313, picked private insurance, the health department said.
After a rocky start to the state programHealth exchange logos, the state Health Department said that New York represents about 30 percent of all the applications nationwide for the health exchanges, which were established through the federal Affordable Care Act.
Since the launch Oct. 1, the state's customer service center has provided assistance to more than 77,000 New Yorkers, the Health Department said.
"Our marketplace is operating very smoothly, and we are pleased to see that tens of thousands of individuals and small business owners across the state are turning to nystateofhealth.ny.gov to access low-cost health insurance," said Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, the exchange's name, in a statement.
The federal government continued to be besieged by problems with its own health-exchange site, which is handling the enrollment for 36 states.
New York, however, has established its own site, and it too was overwhelmed by visitors when it first launched. The website had more than 30 million hits in the first week it opened.
State officials said the problems have been resolved, and people should no longer have troubles registering online and picking from about 16 health-care providers to get insurance.
"Our experience has been much different than some of the other reported experiences," Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday. "We haven't had the glitches. We haven't had the problems."
The state has estimated that individuals may see insurance rates fall by as much as 53 percent compared to what they would have received on the open market.
New York hopes to register 1.1 million uninsured residents over three years. The exchange opens Jan. 1, and registration continues until March 31. To have health insurance by Jan. 1, enrollment needs to be completed by Dec. 15.
The exchange also offers tax credits to those who earn less than $45,960 as an individual or $94,200 as a family of four.
People without health insurance would be hit with a fine on their income taxes in 2015, starting about $95 or 1 percent of their gross income. The fine can grow to as much as $695 a year over time.
The program also has a small-business marketplace that offers health insurance to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Large businesses that do not offer employees health insurance could be hit with a fine in 2015.
New Yorkers can access available plans and estimate costs and find incentives by visiting: http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/premiumEstimator.
To find plans in your area, visit New Yorkers can see plans available in their area at http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PlansMap
For more information, visit https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ or call 1-855-355-5777.
The website also has a list of in-person navigators who can assist people at sites in every county in New York.