After Rocky Start, State Site Runs More Smoothly
New York Avoids Fed System Glitches, Enrolls 150,000
By Claire Hughes Albany Times Union October 22, 2013
While chronic technical problems plaguing the federal government's online insurance marketplace prompted an address Monday by President Barack Obama himself, New York's version is running smoothly, according to its director.
"In less than three weeks since the launch of NY State of Health, already nearly 150,000 New Yorkers have signed up for quality, low-cost health insurance," said Donna Frescatore, executive director of the state online marketplace, in an emailed statement.
Thousands of New Yorkers have not only registered, but actually enrolled in and purchased insurance coverage through the NY State of Health website, according to the state Health Department. Officials will not say how many, and have promised that number soon.
The state and federal online markets, called exchanges, have been established to meet requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Under the law, most Americans must get health insurance coverage or pay a penalty.
Uninsured residents of 36 other states are relying on the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, to enroll in health insurance plans and see if they qualify for financial assistance. Because New York chose to run its own online market, problems on the federal exchange do not affect state residents.
Actual enrollment in the insurance plans requires an electronic transfer to the insurance companies whose plans are offered on the exchange. These transactions were initially delayed, according to a Health Department spokesman, while the state verified information. The verification process was completed and information was transferred last week, according to the spokesman.
NY State of Health suffered its own technical glitches immediately after its Oct. 1 launch, when millions of Internet visitors jammed the site, blocking consumers from logging in and causing the site to freeze up. Since then, technicians have quadrupled the website's capacity and made numerous software upgrades.
The site is now operating free of significant troubles, according to Frescatore.
The 150,000 New Yorkers who have registered and been deemed eligible for insurance through NY State of Health represent more than a third of all Americans reported by the federal government to have applied for health insurance since the Oct. 1 launch of the exchanges.
Operators at the state's customer service centers have assisted more than 66,000 New Yorkers in buying insurance, Frescatore said.