Signing up for health insurance – 387,000 Brooklyn residents were uninsured in 2011 – it is causing a host of headaches.
From the undecided uninsured, to prospective providers, to the potential Medicaid recipients, the early days of the Affordable Care Act have not been easy ones.
“A lot of people don’t know about it and the Obama administration hasn’t done a good job informing the public,” said Zubin Ramnani, a marketing representative for MetroPlus, a provider registered on the city’s new health exchange.
Ramnani was trying to get caretakers to sign up *Ramnani works at Kings County Hospital Center in Flatbush, a neighborhood where 20 percent of non-elderly residents were uninsured before Congress passed ‘Obamacare’.
Meanwhile, at a signup office in Boerum Hill, 28-year-old Juan Delarosa was still trying to sort out just what sort of insurance he qualified for. He’d been without health insurance for a month and a half. “I needed to get medicine but am no longer eligible,” he said. “I wish I had money for insurance.”
Amy Tidwell, who is 25 and works in a café, had still not decided whether to register. “I have a huge hospital bill that I can’t pay anymore at this point,” she said. Earlier this year, Tidwell had a series of infections that led to bills of around $4,000, more than double what she typically makes a month.
Ineligible for Medicaid but unable to afford a private medical insurance, she falls into the category the health care law claims to target: the working poor. “I am looking to sign up for ACA because of my high medical costs and dental problems,” says Tidwell, who has been uninsured since leaving college three years ago. She added that she will likely signup, but still needs to know more about the available plans.
In her neighborhood, Bushwick, one in three people were uninsured in 2010. Across Brooklyn, 15 percent of residents were without coverage the year after that, according to Stephen Berger, co-founder of Odyssey, an investment firm, who investigated Medicaid reforms for the city in 2011.
“The biggest problem with the uninsured in New York is that there are about a million people who are eligible for Medicaid who won’t sign up,” said Berger. “I just can’t figure out why they won’t sign up.”
He added that a portion of these eligible uninsured will remain so even after the law takes effect. “The number of the uninsured will shrink. By how much? I don’t know,” he said. “We have got to make this simpler.”
Technological glitches this week did not make it easier with servers being overloaded. “The math doesn’t add up,” said John Coghlan, owner and manager of the Dumbo Startup Lab, a forum for web and technology entrepreneurs. “There’s just a lot of people who want information at this point.”
Still, the Affordable Care Act is a “reasonably thought out process,” said Andrew Ryan, an associate professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College. He further added that “prices will go down a lot for individuals and small markets could save substantial amounts on insurance policies.”
*The original version of this story mistakenly said that Zubin Ramnani was trying to sign up people for healthcare insurance. He was not. The Brooklyn Ink regrets the error.
-Reported by Sven Carlsson, Alexandra Glorioso, Sharanya Haridas, Stephen Henderson, Siddique Humayun, and Joanna Plucinska