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Queens Chronicle

Healthcare exchange opens Oct. 1 in NY

Queens residents optimistic about first step in Obamacare rollout

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Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 10:30 am

New York will be joining other states with its own healthcare exchange on Oct. 1.

The exchange is a type of online marketplace where insurance can be found for eligible individuals at a significant discount. Those on Medicaid will continue to receive those benefits, but for those who fit into that gray area — of not qualifying for Medicaid but not being able to afford full coverage healthcare — the exchange may be a feasible option.

While there are concerns about exactly what the exchange under the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is, overall Queens residents seem optimistic.

“I think it’s good,” Karen Dennis, president of the community council for Police Service Area 9, which patrols public housing complexes, and director of the Ravenswood Community Supported Agriculture, said hesitantly. “You really need to read it to understand.”

Like many government programs there is a fair share of government speak, but the state’s website nystateofhealth.ny.gov does a good job of walking people through it with how to apply and explaining the many ins and outs.

Individuals who make less than $45,960 or a family of four that makes less than $94,200 can apply for financial assistance.

Dennis believes Obamacare will encourage preventative care instead of emergency room visits for ailments that should be treated in a doctor’s office. The new system will also use electronic records instead of paper and a government-monitored system may lead to less abuse of service when doctors encourage more expensive treatment than necessary.

The news is divided with some touting the about-50-percent discount it can afford more than a million people who don’t have healthcare where others say it will hurt small businesses or entice some to try to skirt around providing it.

Companies with more than 50 employees will have to provide benefits to their employees under Obamacare. Those eligible businesses that do not comply by 2015 will be fined.

“Hopefully the picture of healthcare will look better,” Dennis said.

A cancer survivor from Long Island City, Georgia, said she thought “It was a good idea.”

She liked that everyone would be required to buy health insurance or face a fine.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D- Manhattan, Queens) said in her district about 72,000 people are eligible for coverage through the exchange.

“I look forward to the Oct. 1 rollout of the New York Health Benefit Exchange, for the people in my district and throughout New York State,” Maloney said. “My office will work with the state to address any issues with the exchange — should any arise.”

There’s been outreach in the borough. Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) went business to business with the 82nd Street Partnership to talk about the new policy. The New Jerusalem Baptist Church Evangelism Ministry in Jamaica will host a “what you need to know” seminar on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. about Obamacare. Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens) is holding a similar forum on Oct. 15 at Elmhurst Hospital from 5 to 7 p.m. Call (718) 445-7860 to RSVP.

Last Wednesday a spokeswoman from Healthfirst, an insurance company participating in the exchange, Sasha Rodriguez, visited Community Board 5 in Middle Village.

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