BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
As of Oct. 1, Americans have been able to shop for health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act. But while the concept of shopping for your health insurance online seems convenient, users have reported problems and complications with the website.
“Early, the first couple of days, because of the overwhelming volume, people have said it was slower and harder to navigate,” said Jeffrey Hammond, spokesperson for the New York State Dept. of Health. “But since then, we have done things to increase server capacity and those problems have gone away.”
Although many of the first reported problems have since been resolved, and although there are a number of resources available to the residents of Queens, not everyone has the time or ability to find the facilities that will help clarify the process. So the Queens Tribune has put together a condensed and easy-to-follow guide to help the technologically-challenged navigate the cyber ‘marketplace.’
In order to browse the healthcare options available to you on the Affordable Care Act’s website, www.healthcare.gov, you must first enter click the green ‘Apply Now’ button on the page. Prior to browsing the health care packages available for you and your family, you will be required to create an account. Be sure that before you create your account, you have selected the state in which you are looking to purchase insurance.
If you live in New York, New York State Dept. of Health is the Health Insurance Marketplace to serve you and instead of using healthcare.gov, you will be directed to use the New York State of Health website, www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, to apply for coverage, compare plans and enroll.
Before you are ready to enroll, you will need to have some important information on hand. Be prepared to enter your household size, your age, the ages of other household members, your zip code, your social security number and any previous medical conditions.
In your first step, you will be required to come up with a NY.gov ID user information, in which you must select your login ID information, a primary email address and a preferred user ID. Before you will be able to answer any questions, you must first confirm your NY.gov ID via email. The email will contain an activation link which will have you fill out three shared secret questions, which will come in handy should you ever forget your password or login information.
After answering and selecting your security questions and answers, you will be directed to reset your password. As a safety measure in selecting a password, try to avoid using your user name, real name, birthday or company name. You may also want to pick a password that is significantly different from previous password so that your account and information is not easily hacked.
Once you are finally logged in, the website will direct you to its first set of personal questions so that your identity is verified. When filling out this first questionnaire, you will need to know your social security number. The website is completely secure, so there is no need to be weary of your social security number being compromised. In this section, you will also be able to select your language preferences.
After you have been verified by the website, you will begin the second portion of the questionnaire process. In the following steps, you will be asked to list everyone in your family – even if they do not file taxes or are not looking for healthcare coverage. It is important to note that the website does ask you for your race and ethnicity, but you are not obligated to fill out this information.
When you have entered and reviewed your household information, you will be asked to agree to the Marketplace’s policies on privacy, which you are given the option of downloading and printing for your own safekeeping.
In the third section, you will be able to select a health insurance plan for yourself and your family members. The website will determine which plans are available for you, the benefits of the plans, the doctors and facilities that participate in the plan network as well as the cost of enrolling in the plan.
On the following pages, you will be able to select and filter plans based on quality ratings, cost, metal level or even by doctor or facility. In choosing the right plan for you, you will also get the option of selecting three types of health insurance plans – a medical plan without dental coverage, a medical plan with dental coverage and a medical plan with dental coverage only for children.
At every tier level, most individuals will be offered a wide range of prices from a variety of insurance companies. According to Hammond, it was a goal for the New York State Dept. of Health to make sure the website is easy to follow and user-friendly.
“We did try to make [the website] user-friendly and we provided the [demonstration] video, so we are trying to make it easier for folks to use,” he said.
After you have selected the right health insurance plan for you and your family, you are most likely still not insured. While you may have been able to start shopping for the plan, coverage purchased through the marketplace will not begin until 2014. To ensure that you are covered on Jan.1, you must send in your payment by Dec. 15. If you are still not covered by March 31, 2014, you will be obligated to pay a penalty on your annual taxes.
For a full video demonstration of the individual and families application, visit http://www.healthbenefitexchange.ny.gov/resource/video-demonstration-individuals-and-families-application.
For more information about how you can sign up for health insurance, you can call the New York State of Health’s hotline at (855)-355-5777. Representatives are available to speak to customers on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.