Officials praise health care sign-ups

More than 4,000 individuals in Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties enrolled in the New York State of Health health care marketplace.

Nearly 1 million New Yorkers enrolled in the marketplace in total during the first-year open enrollment period.

According to a news release from New York State of Health, a study of the first-year open enrollment period shows more than 80 percent of enrollees reported being uninsured at the time of application. Enrollment occurred in every county in the state and across all eligible health plans, and across a mix of age groups.

Across the three counties, 4,157 people have enrolled, according to the report.

In an email, Mike Ostrander, Nathan Littauer Hospital’s chief financial officer, said the hospital was pleased with the amount of enrollments. New York State of Health website navigators employed by Littauer enrolled roughly 1,200 individuals in the program.

“Nathan Littauer Hospital is pleased with the response we have had to the marketplace. We feel that 1,200 applications processed is a good starting-off point,” Ostrander said in the email. “We have offered multiple channels for people to enroll in quality, affordable coverage through this new marketplace. People now have options.”

This marketplace is part of the Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare.

Cheryl McGrattan, vice-president of marketing at Nathan Littauer, said this was uncharted territory.

“This is the first time our country has done something like this in 230 years,” McGrattan said.

From Oct. 1, 2013, through April 15, 960,762 New Yorkers enrolled in a health care plan through NY State of Health.

“Year one of the marketplace has been a tremendous success with more than 960,000 New Yorkers enrolling in quality, low-cost health insurance,” said Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, in a news release. “The year-one results show strong activity throughout the state and across many important measures, such as age, prior insurance status, affordability and health plan options. We’re looking forward to building upon this success during the next open enrollment period, which begins for individuals and families on November 15, 2014, for coverage starting on January 1, 2015.”

The report, filed between Oct. 1 and April 15, shows 370,000 enrollments in qualified health plans. According to Healthcare.gov, a qualified health plan is an insurance plan that is certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace set up by the Affordable Care Act, provides essential health benefits and follows established limits on cost-sharing, like deductibles, copayments and out-of-pocket maximum amounts. Roughly 65,000 individuals enrolled in a Child Health Plus plan, and 525,000 enrolled in Medicaid.

In Fulton County, 2,101 people enrolled in the marketplace. Of that number, 1,067 enrolled in Medicaid, 208 in Child Health Plus plans and 826 into all qualified health plans.

McGrattan said during the enrollment period there was no way the hospital could have predicted the amount of people that would enroll.

Fulton County Supervising Public Health Nurse Dale Woods said while her department does not keep track of health insurance enrollments, her department does refer clients to navigators who can help enroll them in insurance programs.

Woods did say she felt the numbers sounded reasonable for their population.

Montgomery County saw 1,836 enrollments, with 1,016 enrolling in medicaid, 161 in Child Health Plus plans and 659 in qualified health plans.

Kim Conboy, Montgomery County Public Health director, said that prior to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, approximately more than 5,000 individuals in Montgomery County were uninsured.

“It means more individuals within the county will now have health insurance. For those individuals with chronic health conditions, the added benefit of health insurance will afford them better care,” Conboy said in an email. “The number to me appears to be a good start.”

Conboy said she expected to see better care for individuals, through better case management services being provided in the near future.

“Overall, the county will have a better population health and lower health care costs,” Conboy said.

According to Conboy, Montgomery County also has in-person assistors or navigators who provide enrollment assistance to individuals, families, small businesses and their employees who would like help applying for health insurance through the Marketplace. With IPAs in place, the current numbers should continue to increase, Conboy said.

According to New York State of Health, applicants may go to any of the Community Service Society of New York’s Montgomery County locations for assistance. St. Mary’s Health care also offers assistance with signing up.

Jerri Cortese, spokesperson for St. Mary’s Hospital, said she felt Montgomery County was not a statistical outlier in enrollment.

“It looks like we are in proportion with other counties,” Cortese said.

Cortese said in the immediate future, these enrollments will not factor into the hospital’s day-to-day operations.

“It could eventually; we may need more primary care physicians,” Cortese said.

In Hamilton County, 220 individuals enrolled across all programs, with 87 in Medicaid, 21 in Child Health Plus plans and 112 in all other qualified health plans.

According to Hamilton County Director of Public Health Susan Franko, with the low population in the county, the amount of residents who signed up for health care coverage under the Marketplace is remarkable.

“Access to health care providers and insurers in Hamilton County continues to be a public health dilemma. The continued efforts of our Certified Home Health Nurses, the New York State of Health Navigators, and Public Health outreach activities will help aide in this disparity,” Franko said in an email.

According to Healthcare.gov, the 2014 enrollment period ended in March. For coverage starting in 2015, the proposed enrollment period is Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. Individuals may also qualify for special enrollment periods, such as the birth of a child, marriage or loss of other job-based health coverage.

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program applicants can sign up at any time, according to the website.

To find local navigators to help enroll, visit nystateofhealth.ny.gov/agent/navigators and search for local representatives.