New York’s health exchange is one of Obamacare’s biggest success stories. Here, the exchange website.
ALBANY — President Obama has New York to thank for helping to keep his health insurance program afloat.
While federal officials have scrambled to fix their glitch-ridden online insurance exchange, New York’s Obamacare rollout — despite some initial hiccups — has become one of the initiative’s biggest success stories, officials and analysts said.
“It’s working great,” said Elisabeth Benjamin of the Community Service Society of New York, a nonprofit group that helps people navigate the state’s health exchange. “We are enrolling people like gangbusters.”
New York’s enrollment numbers far surpass those posted by the federal government and rank third among the 16 states and the District of Columbia that operate health insurance exchanges, according to figures tracked by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The state Health Department reported that 257,413 people had completed applications on the site as of Nov. 24. Of that figure, 41,021 went on to enroll in a health insurance plan and another 35,156 qualified for Medicaid.
By the end of 2016, state officials expect 1.1 million people to have obtained coverage through New York’s site.
Only California, with 214,891 Medicaid and insurance enrollees, and Washington state, with 130,575, have had more success than New York, according to Kaiser.
“There are a handful of states that are showing that the law can work,” said Kaiser Senior Vice President Larry Levitt, who noted that California, Washington, and New York account for almost three-quarters of the total Obamacare enrollment.
Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Affinity Health Pl
New York’s enrollment numbers surpass those posted by the federal government. Here, Brooklyn residents and local elected officials celebrate the launch of open enrollment in New York’s health exchange on Oct. 1.
“It is clear from the challenges of the federal website, as well as some other states, that building these systems in the time frame required was a tough job,” Levitt said. New York developed its exchange using $ 370 million in federal grants, about a third of which was devoted to the information systems. Another $ 40 million was spent on marketing the program, including radio and television commercials.
While conceding they faced a much easier task than federal officials who had to craft a website to serve more than 30 states, New York officials pointed to a handful of steps as key to their success.
For starters, the executive order signed by Gov. Cuomo in April 2012 to create the exchange mandated that it be run entirely by the Health Department, which already ran the state’s Medicaid programs.
“That was a very important decision and one that was reached in part because of the need to have a marketplace that was integrated and coordinated with our public health insurance programs,” said Donna Frescatore, executive director of New York’s insurance exchange.
The state also chose a single contractor to develop the website and all the information management systems.
After an expedited bidding process, the state chose Computer Sciences Corp., a Virginia-based company that had created many of the state’s Medicaid management systems.
State officials also held public forums and meetings with business and community groups to better design the program.
Although New York’s exchange experienced freeze ups and other glitches during its first few days, officials addressed the problems by adding additional servers and tweaking some programming.
“We can make it better as we go forward, but we are very pleased with where we are today and very pleased with the engagement of New Yorkers coming to the system,” Frescatore said.