Brook-Krasny says assistance is available
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If you’re confused by Obamacare and you don’t know how to find your way through the maze of health care exchanges that have been set up to purchase insurance, Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny has a solution – hire a navigator.
"Just as one might consult a tax advisor when filing taxes, navigators, designated and certified by the State of New York, can help you find the best insurance plan to fit your needs,” Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“Navigators may help remove barriers to the application process by providing assistance in multiple languages, in community-based settings and during non-traditional hours such as evenings and weekends,” he said.
“Such an expansive marketplace can be daunting, but health care navigators are available to help.”
Oct. 1 marked the opening of the NY State of Health, New York’s version of the mandated health benefit exchange program that is part of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.
By visiting the State of Health website or by calling 1-855-355-5777, a consumer can search for a navigator in his or her area who can provide detailed information on the ACA and the insurance plans available in the marketplace.
The NY State of Health website allows the consumer to authorize a navigator to work on his or her behalf or to designate a trusted friend, relative, partner or lawyer as an “authorized representative” to handle the application. For more information, visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/agent/navigators.
The website allows New Yorkers to shop for and compare health insurance packages online. The exchange also makes it easy for people to check their eligibility for health care programs like Medicaid and Child Health Plus and to sign up for these programs if eligible, Brook-Krasny said.
For some consumers, coverage can be obtained for free or at a reduced cost through tax credits and subsidies. You may qualify for tax credits if you are an individual earning up to $45,900 a year or a family of four earning up to $94,200 a year.
Brook-Krasny recommended that consumers also check to see if they are eligible for programs such as Medicaid, Child Health Plus, advance premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, which can lower the cost of coverage.
Individuals and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can use the NY State of Health website to shop for coverage. Before NY State of Health was up and running, nearly 2.7 million New Yorkers under the age 65 did not have coverage. It is estimated that 1.1 million New Yorkers will get health coverage through the exchange.
People with pre-existing conditions will have access to care if they choose to buy coverage through NY State of Health, according to Brook-Krasny.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, most Americans must have health insurance. The ACA requires you to get health coverage if you can afford it, or pay a penalty. The penalty is 1 percent of an individual’s income or $95 per person per year, whichever is more. This penalty is set to increase each year.
However, there are circumstances where people may not have to pay a penalty for not having health insurance, Brook-Krasny said. A complete list of exemptions can be found at www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/exemptions.html.
The rollout of the federal website, which also took place on Oct. 1, has been an unmitigated disaster, according to members of congress. NBCnews.com reported that a congressional panel held a hearing on Thursday to determine why the website has so many glitches even now, more than three weeks since its debut.
Americans visiting the website, www.healthcare.gov, have found that the site crashes several times in the course of a few minutes.