New York Releases First Obamacare Exchange Figures

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The online clearing house for the Obamacare exchanges went live on Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

For weeks, the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo had only released piecemeal figures on how many New Yorkers have been using the New York State of Health to apply for health coverage, but for the first time it's clear how many have actually enrolled with insurance plans–-the cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act.

As of Wednesday morning, about 13,000 people had used the exchange to select insurance plans, and about 24,000 have used it to apply for Medicaid.

The exchange is intended to be a 'one-stop shop' for the uninsured. People plug in their income, and they find out whether they are eligible for Medicaid or private insurance. Of those who qualify for insurance, an estimated 70 percent are expected to be poor enough to receive federal subsidies to make the purchase price more affordable.

Many details about who's enrolling are yet to be released -- including how many are receiving subsidies and what kind of policies they're purchasing, as well as which commercial plans are getting the most business.

This information, and details about the overall age of applicants, will indicate how viable the exchange is.

The state estimates around 1 million New Yorkers will purchase insurance over the next three years -- but officials say it's crucial that many young and healthy people enroll to balance the high costs that come from covering relatively older and sicker people, who are expected to be the first on line.

No figures are yet available for New Jersey, which is one of more than 30 states that opted to let the federal government run its insurance exchange.

Consumers continue to report problems using the exchange.

Andrea Arroyo, an artist and illustrator with a mild gall bladder condition, has been trying to apply for insurance since October 1. She is slowly getting further into the online forms, but has yet to complete them before encountering technical problems.

Arroyo, who has been checking in regularly with WNYC, said her latest challenge is trying to persuade the website she does not need "employer verification," because she already checked a line indicating she is self-employed.

"It did improve a bit, but I'm still stuck, and is really stressful," Arroyo said via email. "I will try again tomorrow, it is like a full-time job!"