BUFFALO - The Erie County Department of Social Services has announced that, beginning today, it will be dedicating up to four current staff members to serve as Certified Application Counselors, providing in-person assistance to individuals and families who may need additional information or access to technology in order to apply for health insurance through the newly created New York State Health Exchange. Open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act began on Oct. 1.
"Erie County residents seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act but who are unsure of what is right for them now have someone to turn to in helping them navigate the system and get coverage for themselves and their families," said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. "These Applica-tion Counselors will be able to provide the guidance, advice, and direction necessary for consumers to make an informed decision about what type of coverage best fits their needs. I encourage any resident who needs this information to take advantage of this opportunity and get help with their application, as the effective date for the new coverage to begin is January 1, 2014."
The Affordable Care Act includes a number of new policies intended to significantly reduce the number of people without health insurance. Key provisions to be implemented in 2014 include new health insurance exchanges, such as the NYS Health Exchange; subsidies for coverage in those exchanges; health insurance market reforms; and an individual mandate. The ACA also includes an expansion of Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($15,856 for an individual or $26,951 for a family of three in 2013).
New York State has modeled the Certified Application Counselors on successful community assistance programs in New York, as the program is designed for local districts to help meet the needs of county residents by providing assistance in convenient, community-based locations. Locally, the Counsel-ors will be located at 95 Franklin St. in the 4th floor Medicaid reception area, and will offer application assistance and other information on the types of health insurance programs available through the NYS Exchange.