How to Sign Up for ACA Health Insurance in New York and Save

Posted on 11/07/22 by Catherine Maddux

En español | Most New Yorkers are eligible to buy health insurance through New York State of Health, the state’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, during open enrollment, which remains in effect through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, New York's open enrollment period begins on Nov. 16, 2022, and runs through Jan. 31, 2023.

Residents who experience a qualifying life event, such as a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a move or the loss of health insurance, may be eligible to buy or change coverage under a special enrollment period, which operates outside open enrollment.

Most people already enrolled in ACA marketplace plans have seen their premiums go down because the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) increased tax credits for insurance premiums and expanded the number of households who qualify for them. Every household that pays more than 8.5 percent of their household income now qualifies for federal tax credits to help them afford health insurance. These enhanced subsidies are now available through 2025. 

Prior to the 2021 law, such tax credits were only available to people earning less than a certain salary ($54,360 for one person). Most Americans with a marketplace plan can save an average of about $800 per year, according to the federal government.

  • Most New Yorkers, including non-U.S. citizens with work or student visas, are eligible to buy health insurance through New York State of Health, regardless of whether they are currently insured. People who are incarcerated are not eligible. Marketplace information is available in Spanish, Korean and both traditional and simplified Chinese.
  • You may also qualify for Medicaid, which offers free or low-cost coverage to low-income people and families, those who live in skilled nursing facilities and people with certain disabilities. Undocumented immigrants and low-income pregnant women may also be eligible for emergency Medicaid, which covers the cost of emergency medical conditions. You can sign up before or up to three months after a medical emergency. If you enroll in advance, you will be covered for the costs of future emergencies for 12 months. Immigrants in New York City have many options for health coverage, depending on their status.
  • You and your family members may also be eligible for other subsidized plans through New York State of Health, such as Child Health Plus for those under age 19 who aren’t eligible for Medicaid, or the Essential Plan. These plans aim to fill the coverage gap among families and individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford coverage.

  • New York State of Health's open enrollment has been extended through at least Mar. 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You can enroll anytime outside of open enrollment if you experience a qualifying life event. You only have 60 days from that event to enroll. Qualifying events include certain moves, births and adoptions, loss of employer-provided coverage, marriage, divorce and other special circumstances, such as job loss or divorce.

You apply for coverage and choose your plan at the same time. You’ll need to pay your first monthly premium for your coverage to begin and to receive your health plan cards. To apply and enroll:

  • By phone: Call the New York State of Health customer service center at 855-355-5777 (press 5) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. through 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. If you’re hearing impaired, call 800-662-1220 (TTY enabled).
  • In person: Call the New York State of Health customer service center at 855-355-5777 (press 5) to request in-person assistance. Representatives called “assistors” and “navigators” are available to help you and your family understand your options and provide enrollment assistance. They speak over 40 different languages and are available weekdays, evenings and even on weekends. Assistance is free of charge. Use the New York State of Health online search tool to find a navigator in your community.

Coverage and cost depend on where you live, the type of plan you choose, your household income and the age and disability status of you and your family. 

If you qualify for Medicaid, you will be able to get free or low-cost coverage and may not need to worry about premiums or copays, depending on your level of income. 

All New York State of Health plans cover 10 “essential” benefits, including: 

  • Emergency services and hospitalization 
  • Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care 
  • Mental health services (including counseling) 
  • Chronic disease management and pediatric care 
  • Prescription drugs 

Insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of preexisting conditions. When you apply, you can identify your medical needs and choose a plan that makes financial sense for you and your family. 

All New York State of Health plans cover basic dental services for children, including cleanings and exams. But adults who want dental coverage must add it to their policy. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs vary between plans; enrolling in a family plan can cut costs

Every eligible household that pays insurance premiums that exceed 8.5 percent of annual income qualifies for federal tax credits for insurance premiums through 2025. 

According to Megan O’Reilly, AARP vice president of government affairs for health and family, subsidy recipients ages 50 to 64 have already seen average annual savings of over $950.

Yes. If you qualify for a premium tax credit, you may also qualify for a cost-sharing reduction that would help you pay for such out-of-pocket expenses as deductibles and copays. You must enroll in a Silver-level plan to get this assistance. 

New York State of Health plans are organized into four categories: 

  • Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums and the highest deductibles and copays and cover roughly 60 percent of care costs. They’re designed to help you in case of serious illness or injury. 
  • Silver plans have moderate monthly premiums, deductibles and copays and cover roughly 70 percent of care costs. They’re the only plans eligible for cost-sharing subsidies. 
  • Gold plans have higher monthly premiums and lower deductibles and copays and cover roughly 80 percent of care costs. 
  • Platinum plans have the highest monthly premiums and the lowest deductibles and copays and cover roughly 90 percent of care costs. These are for people who have significant health care needs and are willing to pay the highest premiums. 

New York State of Health’s comparison tool allows you to estimate costs and benefits of various plans and check whether you might qualify for financial assistance.

If you already have coverage through your employer or directly through an insurance provider but are eligible for lower premiums, you can switch to New York State of Health. But you may not qualify for tax credits if you opt out of your employer’s plan — unless those premiums exceed a certain portion of your household income. The premiums would need to be more than 9.12 percent of your household income for individual coverage. 

If you lose your COBRA coverage, you may be able to sign up for a New York State of Health during a 60-day special enrollment window. Try to apply and select your plan through New York State of Health before your COBRA coverage ends to make sure there's no gap in coverage.

That depends. Major insurance providers, including Empire Blue Cross, Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare of New York, offer New York State of Health plans, but not all doctors accept them. You can talk to your primary care physician or use the New York State of Health’s comparison tool to see whether a certain doctor or practice will accept a marketplace plan. 

It depends. You can enroll as a family. But in some cases, some family members may also be eligible for subsidies or other programs, depending on age, income and disability, or caregiver status. 

This guide was updated on Nov. 7, 2022, with new information about open enrollment.

This story is provided by AARP New York. Visit the AARP New York page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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