Health care enrollment deadline looms for New Yorkers

The deadline to enroll in an Affordable Care Act plan for guaranteed coverage on Jan. 1, 2019, is this Saturday.
The deadline to enroll in an Affordable Care Act plan for guaranteed coverage on Jan. 1, 2019, is this Saturday. Photo Credit: Brynne Levy

New Yorkers have three days left to sign up for health care benefits through the Affordable Care Act if they want guaranteed coverage on Jan. 1, 2019.

The state’s open enrollment period closes on Jan. 31, 2019, but folks need to sign up by Saturday to ensure coverage in the new year.

Qualified New Yorkers can enroll in a health care plan via the state’s online marketplace, nystateofhealth.ny.gov, or call 1-855-355-5777 for assistance.

State health officials have ramped up their efforts to raise awareness of the deadline and get people signed up, particularly in the wake of more federal funding cuts for marketing Affordable Care Act benefits.

New York State of Health, which operates the marketplace, hosted an interactive webinar Wednesday afternoon to walk people through the process of finding a low-cost health care plan that meets their specific needs. Program representatives also will host information sessions at Workforce 1 Career Centers in the Bronx (400 E. Fordham Rd.) and in Flushing (138-60 Barclay Ave.) during business hours on Thursday.

“New York State of Health is dedicated to enrolling New Yorkers in quality, affordable coverage before the upcoming deadline,” executive director Donna Frescatore said.

Over 930,000 New Yorkers have already signed up for a health care plan through the state’s marketplace this enrollment period, according to Frescatore.

“Current consumers are re-enrolling at a rapid rate and more than 51,000 new consumers have already enrolled in a plan,” Frescatore said. “The swift pace of enrollment shows that New Yorkers want the affordable health coverage they deserve.”

More than 4.3 million New Yorkers enrolled in a health care plan through the state’s marketplace for coverage in 2018 — an increase of 700,000 people compared to 2017, according to New York State of Health. Over 2.2 million of the enrollees were in the five boroughs, per state data.

While New York’s program continues to make strides in providing coverage to those in need, states that rely on the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace have seen a dramatic drop in enrollment.

The number of people signing up for coverage in the 39 states that use Healthcare.gov has decreased by 11 percent when comparing the first half of 2018’s enrollment period to the same time frame in 2017, The New York Times reported.

One of the pillars of President Donald Trump’s election campaign was a promise to completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act. While Trump and the Republican Party have not succeeded in repealing the health care law championed by former president Barack Obama, they have made significant changes that could be affecting enrollment, including the rollback of the tax penalty mandating that individuals obtain coverage and a massive funding cut for advertising and marketing the program, per The New York Times.

In July, the Trump administration slashed grant funding for nonprofits that help people navigate Affordable Care Act coverage plans. Funding for the grants has dropped by 80 percent since 2016, The New York Times reported.

Officials for the Trump administration cited low enrollment through the nonprofits as the reason for the cuts.

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