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Governor preserves status quo on canceled health insurance plans

New York will not let people keep for another year any health insurance plans that were canceled because they don't meet minimum benefits standards under the Affordable Care Act.

Insurers in New York had been waiting for instructions from the state on how to proceed following President Obama's proposal last week to let insurance companies offer the terminated plans in 2014.

At least 137,000 people in Western New York had received cancellation notices for their plans, and Obama had reacted in response to political and public frustration.

Insurers in this state have said they can't unilaterally decide to renew the expiring plans without guidance from the state Department of Financial Services, which oversees the insurance industry.

The department had yet to issue this direction, and Danielle Holahan, deputy director for NY State of Health, said on a conference call Monday that the state still is weighing its response.

However, speaking to reporters at an event Monday on Staten Island, Cuomo was asked about Obama's proposal.

"You know, we haven't had the kind of issues in New York on our exchange that they've had nationwide. Our program has actually been working well. The website has been working well. And we've had actually very good success with our program. So we don't see any reason to change it now, because we're not having those types of issues," Cuomo said.

Asked whether the governor's off-the-cuff remarks amount to a policy announcement, Matthew Anderson, a spokesman for the Department of Financial Services, referred a reporter to those remarks.

-- Stephen T. Watson


HarborCenter restaurant boss hired

HarborCenter has named Dominic Verni general manager of its restaurant and sports bar.

Before joining HarborCenter, Verni spent 17 years with the Hard Rock International restaurant, hotel and casino chain, most recently at its Niagara Falls location.

The yet-to-be-named establishment at HarborCenter will consist of two levels, with seating for 350 people. It is expected to open in fall 2014. The HarborCenter complex, which is under construction next to the First Niagara Center, will also contain ice rinks, training facilities, a Marriott hotel and retail space.

Making sense of the math on insurance exchange enrollment

On Tuesday, the State Health Department released data showing that 48,162 people have enrolled in the New York health insurance exchange, a total that keeps the state on pace to meet its enrollment goals.

On Thursday, however, the federal government released grim enrollment figures for 36 states relying on the troubled federal insurance exchange and slightly better totals for the 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, running their own exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put the New York enrollment figure at 16,404, as of Nov. 2. So what explains the difference?

The state included people who signed up on the exchange both in private health plans and with Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, while the feds only included people who signed up for private health plans. The state also counted enrollees through Nov. 12, while the federal cutoff was Nov. 2.

The 48,162 enrolled in New York as of Nov. 12 included 24,509 enrolled in private health plans and 23,653 eligible for Medicaid.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that the number of Medicaid-eligible enrollees actually declined from the 23,717 enrolled through the state exchange as of Oct. 23. State officials explained that the earlier, higher figure included people whose eligibility was still pending because they hadn't filed the necessary documentation. Later reporting of enrollment data doesn't include those people, we're told.

-- Stephen T. Watson

48,000 have enrolled on state health insurance exchange

More than 48,000 people have enrolled on New York's health insurance exchange since it opened for business Oct. 1, the State Health Department announced today.

State officials say 48,162 people have enrolled, an increase of about 11,000 from the 37,000 who had enrolled as of Oct. 23.

In addition, another 197,011 New Yorkers have completed the application process and are deemed eligible to receive insurance through the NY State of Health exchange. To enroll, they must choose a plan, according to the state.

“We are very pleased to see these results, which show that tens of thousands of individuals across the state are turning to to access low-cost health insurance,” Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, said in a statement.

The State Health Department did not immediately provide a geographic breakdown of this data.

There are 2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers, according to the state, and an estimated 64,000 of them live in this region. State officials expect that 615,000 individuals, and 450,000 small-business employees, will buy coverage through the New York exchange over the next three years.

Coverage kicks in Jan. 1, with an enrollment deadline of Dec. 15 for anyone who wants insurance through the exchange to begin at the start of the new year. The final enrollment deadline is March 31.

-- Stephen T. Watson