Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

A Cuomo administration official kicked off the state’s glitch-plagued health care insurance exchange this week in Queens, where residents have more insurance options than any other county in New York.

State Secretary of State Cesar Perales celebrated the launch of New York State of Health, the new insurance marketplace that was created as part of the federal Affordable Care Act, at Queens Public Library’s Central Branch in Jamaica Tuesday near the corner of Merrick Boulevard and 90th Avenue.

“I wanted to be here, in essence, to celebrate the day,” he said. “And tell you on behalf of the governor how important this is and how pleased we are that this is happening.”

But by Wednesday more than 30 million people had visited the site, which caused it to malfunction well into Wednesday evening, when TimesLedger went to press.

“In response to these issues, our technicians have doubled the site’s capacity and are working around the clock to troubleshoot emerging problems and ensure users have a better experience going forward,” the program’s executive director, Donna Frescatore, said Wednesday.

Frescatore added about 12,000 individuals and businesses successfully shopped for plans using the site and various programs to help them make a decision.

The health care exchange collects a number of plan providers for residents to choose from — and Queens has the most options out of the entire Empire State.

Individuals can choose from 10 providers, including one for freelance workers, while businesses have four providers from which to select.

That total is more than can be found in any other county in the state, according to a review by TimesLedger Newspapers.

Plans will be offered in four tiers: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. They all differ in what is included, but every level must offer coverage in 10 basic areas including doctor visits, ambulatory and emergency visits, preventative care and pediatric services, according to the Department of State.

Queens residents hoping to purchase a plan can visit the website, nystateofhealth.ny.gov, where information about signing up by phone or receiving assistance in person is available.

Glendale resident Carmen Quintuna said she lost her health care coverage in 2008 after having twins and has been unable to afford a plan since.

“Today is a day I have been waiting for almost five years,” she said.

The kickoff of the state’s program comes amid a partial federal government shutdown related to the nation’s new health care plan.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have repeatedly tied a government funding bill to defunding Obamacare, which the U.S. Senate has rejected on arrival.

President Barack Obama lashed out at the lawmakers Tuesday in a Rose Garden speech where he pointed out that the new health care plan’s funding has not been affected by the shutdown.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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