Starting Oct. 1, individuals and families can enroll in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. But don’t let that looming date worry you. Plenty of help is available for Wayne and Cayuga County residents.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, can be your route to health care at a price you can afford. You may find you are eligible for tax credits. But before any of this happens, you need to enroll in what is termed the New York Health Benefit Exchange.
The Benefit Exchange is part of a fledgling nationwide health care system that is not without controversy. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. This Act puts forth comprehensive health care reform that mandates all individuals to obtain health insurance by January 2014 or face fines. Individual penalties will kick in after a three month grace period. The Act contains similar language requiring businesses with 50 or greater full-time employees to provide affordable health coverage or face fines, although most recently the employer mandate was delayed for a year.
If you are confused by the new system, don’t worry. Many steps are being taken to help Wayne and Cayuga County residents navigate through the web of health care options that will be available to you under the ACA.
In Wayne County, you can call 1-800-346-2211 to schedule an appointment with experts who can help. When you call, you can arrange to meet at one of several sites, including Wayne County Public Health, Sodus Free Library, Ontario Public Library, and Palmyra Library. Other sites are available, too. Again, you can work that out once you call the eight hundred number.
As you move into the world of health care under the ACA, brace yourself for some technical terms. The agency that can help you is called the S2AY Rural Health Network, a Rural Health Network funded by the New York State Department of Health. Originally called the SAY Rural Health Network when formed in 1997, it included the counties of Steuben, Allegany and Yates. With the addition of Schuyler County to the Network in 1998 the Network officially became recognized as the S2AY Rural Health Network. In 2002 Ontario, Wayne and Seneca Counties joined the S2AY Rural Health Network.
This network has received special funding to provide help. The experts who can meet with you are called “In-Person Assistors/Navigators.”
These navigators are the experts who will meet with you to explain your options through what is termed the benefits exchange. They can also tell you whether you are eligible for tax credits and cost sharing reductions.
Individuals and families with incomes below certain levels ($45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for a family of four) may be eligible for financial assistance in the form of federal tax credits only available through “NY State of Health,” the new, official name for the benefit exchange. Federal tax credits limit the amount a person pays for insurance each month. Monthly payments will be far below the cost of buying insurance today.
For example, if a silver level plan is selected, an individual with an annual income of $17,000 will pay $55 per month; a family of four with an income of $35,000 will pay $114 per month.
In addition New Yorkers may now use the calculator on the NY State of Health website (nystateofhealth.ny.gov) to estimate their eligibility for tax credits. You can find the calculator at this website: www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/PremiumEstimator
NY State of Health will offer New York’s small businesses with 50 or fewer employees a range of coverage options and ease the administration of employee benefits for owners. Moreover, NY State of Health will be the only place where small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and average wages of $50,000 or less per year may qualify for tax credits to reduce the cost of providing coverage.
Insurance coverage begins Jan.1, 2014. It is estimated that at full enrollment nearly 1.1 million New Yorkers will obtain insurance through NY State of Health, including 615,000 individuals and 450,000 employees of small businesses.
The S2AY Rural Health Network works to meet the most pressing health-related needs in Schuyler, Steuben, Seneca, Allegany, Ontario, Wayne and Yates Counties. For more information regarding the IPA/Navigator program, contact Betsy Hull, Network Coordinator at 607-962-8459.
For more information on the NY State of Health visit the website at nystateofhealth.ny.gov and on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
In Cayuga County, New York State has contracted with Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency (CSCAA) and its subcontractor, Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, to provide guidance in enrolling in health care under Obamacare.
Over a dozen base and satellite sites have been established in order to provide comprehensive service delivery coverage throughout the rural counties. The site schedule can be accessed through CSCAA’s website, www.cscaa.com and will be reviewed and revised monthly, as needed, to meet the needs of the community. Call 315-255-1703 if you have questions.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with other human service organizations, churches, chambers and municipalities to help roll out this new system,” said Laurie Piccolo, Executive Director. “Together, we will increase access to affordable health care for the 12,949 uninsured adults and children residing in Cayuga and Seneca Counties.”
CSCAA is partnering with the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce to provide Small Business Navigator services. “We’re thrilled to partner with Community Action in order to bring this resource to the small businesses of Cayuga and Seneca counties,” said Andrew Fish, Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to helping small businesses and their employees to access affordable health care.”