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Navigators will help NYS residents enroll in new health care plans

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Two local agencies are functioning as navigators, helping residents access the new marketplace of health insurance which opened for the first time Tuesday under President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The New York State Department of Health provided funding to two Utica-based agencies, Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network and Access Care Resources for Health, formerly known as AIDS Community Resources. The employees received three days of training on what health insurance companies are part of the new marketplace and how to advise people on plans most suitable for them based on whether they're an individual, a family, a small business and more.

New York State created its own online marketplace. You can shop and enroll in a health care plan at https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/. Those who want in person assistance can go directly to these navigators. They will walk you through the entire process which takes just about an hour.

"There are sort of surrounding issues that families and individuals need to think about, you know, what kind of coverage do they need because they might have some health issues? Who are their providers? What does their provider accept in terms of health insurance plans? And so we are here to both technically help them navigate the portal, but also help them think about those important pieces of information as they're choosing and enrolling in their health plan," said Diana Haldenwang, the executive director of Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network.

Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network serves all of Madison and Oneida Counties and has several partner locations set up for advising appointments. They said they're excited to provide more options to more people.

"More people with health insurance means more people can get health care in a timely manner. People delay their health care when they don't have a way to pay for it, so thats a key outcome that we're really excited to see," said Haldenwang.

They've been helping people apply for for health insurance with Medicaid and Child Care Plus for nearly a decade. Haldenwang said they're excited to expand their services.

"In New York State I believe there are 16 health plans available, health companies- health insurance companies offering plans all across the state. Ten I believe companies offering dental plans, so there's a lot of choice as far as the company you go with and then the market place is structured in such a way the health plans are in medal levels. So there's bronze, silver, gold and platinum to help people understand the amount of coverage that they're getting with their health plan," said Haldenwang.

The agencies ask that people call and schedule appointments because there are important steps  to prepare for the meeting they can walk you through over the phone.

Neither agency had any advising appointments Tuesday, likely because it's the first day enrollment is open and there also isn't a huge rush. The enrollment period is open until the end of March. However, the health care plans go into effect Jan. 1 and if you need your health insurance to kick in on that date, you need to apply beforehand.

They've started setting up appointments for the coming weeks and anyone can call and set up a meeting.

ACCESS CARE RESOURCES: (315)-475-2430.
MOHAWK VALLEY PERINATAL NETWORK: (315)-732-4657.

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