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Uninsured Western New Yorkers race to enroll in health plans

With the clock ticking down to the end of the open enrollment period, some Western New Yorkers are scrambling to get their health insurance in place.

The open enrollment period ends Tuesday for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare. After that, consumers will only be able to enroll in a health care plan if they experience a life event such as the birth of a child, a marriage, or the loss of a job.

Jeremy Wilson of Getzille enrolled Saturday. The 30-year-old pipefitter has gone without health care since November, after seeing how expensive his employer's plan would be. Young and healthy, he doesn't find himself at the doctor often. Still, not having insurance is unsettling, he said.

"I always worry," he said. "I don't go snowboarding. You just have to take your vitamins, take care of yourself and try to stay healthy."

But after he saw how much his co-workers were penalized for not enrolling in a health plan last year, he wanted to make sure he didn't get hit with the same penalty in 2017. He ended up enrolling in a plan he said has better coverage than his employer's and costs $150 less per month.

But now that President Trump has begun the process of walking back the Affordable Care Act, Wilson isn't sure what will happen with his new policy.

"I just have to cross my fingers and hope the government does the right thing," he said.

It's not just Wilson who doesn't know what will happen with health care. Insurers, hospitals, doctors and politicians are equally in the dark. On his first day as president, Trump signed an executive order on the Affordable Care Act, which he said was in preparation for repealing it. But details about a replacement plan have not yet been announced.

Andrew Napierala, a sales manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, said uncertainty about the future of subsidized health care is a common theme with customers he speaks with.

"They want to know, 'Is this going to change what I just enrolled in? I thought this was all set for me,' " he said.

But changes the administration puts in motion shouldn't affect this year's insurance plans, he said. BlueCross BlueShield's 2017 rates were filed and approved back in April.

"There's uncertainty where there wasn't before," Napierala said. "We let them know that as information comes available, we'll tell them and we'll be their resource."

The deadline for 2017 open enrollment is Tuesday. Those who need coverage should visit or call 1-855-355-5777.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York will continue to hold walk-in "enroll-athons," the schedule for which can be found at Blue Cross agents are also available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until the end of open enrollment at 1-800-888-5407 or by email at To sign up for health care, consumers should have their social security numbers, tax returns, employer information, current insurance coverage and immigration documents.


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