Health insurance has come to at least 1,200 uninsured Onondaga County residents in the last five months, say state and local officials.
That local enrollment has helped make New York the most successful state in running a health care exchange to meet the requirement of the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
“The fact is, New York’s website became well functioning much quicker than the national website did,” said Sarah Wall-Bollinger, executive director of health planning at HealtheConnections, a Syracuse non-profit.
The reasons for New York and Central New York’s enrollment successes, say medical professionals and other experts, include showing clients the enrollment process and seamlessly coordinating the sale of private insurance through a public portal.
“It’s just a case where proper planning prevents poor performance,” said James Coulthart, executive vice president of the Onondaga County Medical Society, the professional organization for doctors.
Before the Affordable Care Act, about 48 million Americans were uninsured. That included approximately 2.2 million from New York and 46,000 — or about 10 percent — of Onondaga County residents.
Twenty-two days after the law went into effect, nearly 174,000 New Yorkers were determined eligible for coverage. It was the fastest-paced enrollment process in the country, followed by Texas and California, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
As of mid February, sign-up had surged to 456,042. In five months, New York has completed more than a third of its goal to enroll 1.1 million people by the end of 2016, according to state officials, through the insurance exchange.
Out of more than 2,000 applicants in Onondaga County, more than 1,000 have enrolled through the New York State of Health website. Additional applications have been submitted through the federal website.
Part of the success for New York and CNY comes from the help to potential enrollees from so-called “navigators.”
In Onondaga County, four navigators from ACR Health, a local non-profit health group, provide guidance and enroll people in plans. ACR Health expanded its navigator program to meet the higher demand for insurance. “And they keep coming,” said Steve Wood, community health coordinator at ACR Health.
(Joe Infantino is a senior majoring in newspaper and online journalism with a minor in anthropology.)