Editorial: New Yorkers have an interest helping others sign up for health insurance under the ACA - The Buffalo News

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Editorial: New Yorkers have an interest helping others sign up for health insurance under the ACA

With all the pummeling to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is it any wonder many Americans think it’s no longer available?

It is still the law, and it is time to enroll. The open enrollment deadline for 2018 is coming quickly, Dec. 15.

New Yorkers and residents in other states that run their own insurance exchanges are fortunate to have later deadlines. With time on their hands, they should text, tweet, Instagram or actually pick up the smartphone and call their friends and relatives in states with the shorter federal deadline and urge them to enroll.

Miss the deadline and risk financial penalty. Even worse, with the risk of illness or injury – and the bills that go with it – there is a great incentive for New Yorkers to make sure they and their neighbors are covered.

That’s true even among New Yorkers who already have coverage. The public pays a hefty price for the uninsured, offering even more reason to encourage, cajole or coerce friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances to sign up.

Still, convincing people to enroll won’t be easy with all of the misconceptions, starting with the falsehood that Obamacare is dead. President Trump has done his level best to kill the signature achievement by his predecessor. Here are a couple of ways:

• Cuts to navigators, or insurance counselors, down to $36 million from about $63 million.

• Cuts to advertising, down to $10 million from $100 million by the previous administration.

• Cuts to important components of the law were made worse when Trump ended payments to insurers that helped offset a requirement that they sell health plans with reduced copayments and deductibles. The requirement to provide discounts remains.

Some people heard about the cost-sharing reduction loss and wrongly believed that the president is blocking premium subsidies. Not so far. But the administration’s deep cuts to advertising mean many Americans will not get the message that it is time to enroll.

In New York State, residents can enroll for private health insurance through Jan. 31. Used by people who do not have coverage through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid or another type of insurance, it has served as an important conduit to better health.

Low-income individuals eligible for Medicaid, Child Health Plus or the Essential Plan can enroll in those programs anytime. The Essential Plan, established under the Affordable Care Act, is a basic health program, an option for individuals younger than 65 with family incomes between 138 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Child Health Plus program that provides low-cost, government-sponsored health insurance to millions in the United States, including 20,943 people in Western New York, faces a steep challenge since Congress allowed funding to expire Oct. 1 and has not yet restored it. New York officials said the state would be left with a $1 billion hole without federal funding. Saving health care for children should be a bipartisan priority.

Enrollment information is available online at HealthCare.gov. New Yorkers can get help in their communities, online at nystateofhealth.ny.gov or by calling 1-855-355-5777.

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