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NY1 Reports: Understanding The Affordable Care Act, Part 2

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In the second installment of NY1's six-part series on the momentous reforms, NY1 Health Reporter Erin Billups delves into how the Affordable Care Act will affect New York's health care marketplace, the vehicle meant to bring insurance in reach of those who are currently uninsured.

There has been so much talk about "Obamacare," but many are unclear on what federal health care reform will mean for New York, especially for the 2.7 million New Yorkers currently uninsured.

"I have no clue," says 25-year-old Kristine Sanchez. "I actually tried to look it up online."

Starting in January 2014, the state's new Health Benefit Exchange opens another avenue to healthcare. New Yorkers can start signing up on October 1, 2013.

"Non-elderly New Yorkers who don't have an affordable coverage option today will be eligible to enroll," says NYS Health Exchange Deputy Director Danielle Holahan.

Holahan anticipates that more than a million New Yorkers will find coverage through the Exchange.

Seventeen different insurance plans have been approved to participate in the exchange in 2014 and will offer different levels of coverage tiered platinum, gold, silver or bronze.

A series of questions in a TurboTax-like format will help whittle down choices.

"If cost is more important to you, you can indicate that you want the plan options that are presented to you to be filtered that way," says Holahan.

About $2.6 million in federal tax credits will bring monthly payments down even further for individuals making less than $46,000 a year or families of four making less than $94,000.

"If your income is, for example, $23,000 a year, you will pay approximately no more than $120 towards your premium every month," says Holahan.

Those who have been buying insurance without the help of an employer could see a 53-percent drop-in rates through the Exchange.

Those who do get their insurance through their employer, however, cannot switch over to the exchange unless its fails to meet federal and state requirements.

"We'll look to see if it's number one, affordable, and number two, whether it meets the minimum standards of comprehensiveness," says Holahan.

To walk New Yorkers through all the changes, the state is training 430 assistors, or navigators, that speak 48 different languages.

It is also estimated that 170,000 more New Yorkers will be eligible for free insurance through Medicaid.

As for the 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance and think this doesn't impact them, experts insist at some point it will.

"The whole idea here is that health reform will bring in healthier lives into coverage and on average bring down the cost for everyone," says Holahan.

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