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Boro leads health law signups

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
By Kelsey Durham

The newest set of data published by the state Department of Health shows that more than 37 percent of New York residents already enrolled for coverage through the Affordable Care Act live in New York City.

Statewide numbers as of Jan. 12 show that 294,595 residents across New York have successfully enrolled since the beginning of the sign-up period Oct. 1. Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are among the counties with the most residents enrolled for coverage so far, and demographic breakdowns indicate that 44 percent of all New Yorkers now signed up were previously uninsured. There was no specific breakdown by borough.

The DOH also reported that a large portion of the enrolled participants, about 30 percent, are under 35.

“A lot of young people are now done with school or at their first jobs and might not have health insurance,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing). “That’s been the good news, to be able to tell them that now they can have it.”

Meng was one of several congressional leaders throughout New York who hosted forums and meetings upon the implementation of the Affordable Care Act online marketplaces to offer answers to constituents with questions or to help those who were having trouble signing up. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) opened his office for an ongoing orientation to the new federal legislation, inviting constituents to call or come in whenever possible for on-site assistance with sign-ups or to ask questions about policies.

Meng’s office hosted forums at hospitals to help area residents with sign-ups and also circulated fliers to the public that provided more information about the complex legislation and how it could affect them. As the number of enrolled participants continues to grow ahead of the March 31 deadline, Meng said the most important factor in making sure New Yorkers continue to be successful in enrolling is to be sure they are aware.

“They’ve heard vaguely that there’s a new health care law and there’s been a lot of rhetoric about these ‘pre-existing conditions,’” Meng said. “There are a lot of people in New York City and I believe there are still a lot of people who don’t know about it.”

Meng said one of the biggest challenges New York City faces in regards to the Affordable Care Act is the language barrier, causing many people to not fully understand what the passing of the act meant and what it made available to them.

“We’ve sort of been in a stage in the last few months where we’re just trying to get the word out,” she said. “Queens is such a diverse place and the issue for us hasn’t really been how well the website is working, but whether or not people know about this.”

Meng said her office is continuing to plan meetings and educational sessions as the deadline approaches and will continue to make information available to those in need.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) has dedicated a section of his website to providing forms, fact sheets and other documents related to the program and also offers links to federal and state exchanges that can be used to apply for coverage. With about 2 1/2 months left before the final enrollment deadline, Crowley said is he happy to see so many people across the state now enrolled and that he will remain committed to making sure his constituents are fully informed.

“While the latest figures on how many New Yorkers have signed up for affordable care are encouraging, there is more work to be done,” he said.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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