Uninsured can start shopping soon 

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While the Republican majority in Congress and many Republican governors have spent their time attacking the Affordable Care Act, New York and many other states have been establishing the health insurance exchanges that the law requires.

The exchanges will do exactly what the law intended, says Sister Christine Wagner. They will connect the uninsured and underinsured to affordable health plans.

Wagner is the director of St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center and a member of the Central New York State Exchange Advisory Committee. She recently gave a presentation at St. Mary's Church in Rochester, explaining how New York's exchange will work.

The exchanges are a group of coverage providers that will resemble an insurance shop and serve much of the uninsured and underinsured, though almost anyone is eligible to purchase insurance though one.

The New York Health Benefit Exchange, www.healthbenefitexchange.ny.gov/, will begin taking enrollment on October 1, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2014.

"Our [St. Joseph's] population is the target population for the ACA — people who don't have insurance," Wagner said. "What we've been seeing over the last few years are people who are coming in sicker and sicker. And the cost of treating them is more expensive because their needs have progressed."

Insurers had to agree to provide 10 basic forms of coverage and those who meet certain income requirements may be eligible for subsidies to purchase a plan. Help with enrollment is available at www.healthcare.gov or by calling 1 (800)318-2594.

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