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Time to Sign-up for Health Insurance; More Help, Subsidies Available than Many Think

It’s time to sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act…and a Syracuse health agency is offering some help and clearing up some confusion.  A-C-R Health has 15 health navigators that help with open enrollment for people renewing a plan or signing on.  Director of Insurance Programs Steve Wood encourages people to come in to clear up income guidelines and potential tax penalties. 

“Sometimes the application can be a deterrent to people.  They make mistakes; they get intimidated by the income piece.  They enter too much; they enter too little; they get scared.  We know how to do it.  The tax penalty?  We are not going to force you to get insurance.  If you don’t want to get insurance, if you just want to see what your options are, o.k. And if you don’t like what your options are, o.k., at least you knew.”

Wood says one of the biggest misconceptions is over the subsidies people might get to help pay for insurance under Obama-care.  The online application has a check-off box to help people find out.

“A huge number of people come to us and are really angry about the cost of insurance.  ‘Did you click the box?’ No. ‘Click the box.’  That’s how you get your tax credits.  That’s how you’re assessed for a cost-sharing reduction from New York State, plus you might get assessed for Medicaid; you may be assessed for the essential plan.  And those are all things you want to try, things to do to save money on insurance.” 

A-C-R Health Director Will Murtaugh encourages people to take advantage of the free help.

At ACR Health we have 15 navigators, whose job it is to help people enroll and we’re in 9 different counties.  I think we’ve enrolled over 29,000 people over the last couple of years, which is amazing.”


  • Onondaga County – 475.2430
  • -      Steve Wood, Brian VanBenschoten, Emily Williams, Ethan Johnson, Heather Blum
  • Oswego County - 956.2467
  • -      - Ebony Coleman
  • Cayuga County – 475.2430
  • -      - Nichole Foltz
  • Jefferson County - 785.8222
  • -      Amber Doner
  • Lewis County – 785.8222
  • -      Brandy Snyder
  • Oneida County – 793.0661
  • -      Sarah Sipley, Eric Radley, Ashley Brown
  • Madison County – 475.2430
  • -      Christiana Rood
  • Herkimer County – 793.0661
  • -      George Deveny
  • St. Lawrence County – 785.8222
  • -      Sheryl Evans

And Wood adds if more people take advantage of the variety of health plans, many parts of the community benefit.
“We want to get people covered.  The more people who are covered, the more people who have insurance means more healthy people in our community, which means we have a healthier community.  And that’s what we want.  We want less emergency room (visits); we want less hospital visits, less urgent care visits, less sick children, less missed days of work, all of that stuff.  And that’s what this does is gets people healthy.”


Insurance rates typically go up year after year…and national reports indicate sharp rises on premiums.  But Wood says New York State has mechanisms to make sure the rates won’t go too high.

“We have a lot of national news stories about the rates rising dramatically.  We don’t see that as much here in New York State.  The state has a lot of checks and balances in place to keep insurance under control.”

Wood says the increases on the plans in the state range from 6 % to 11.6 %.  There’s also concern that Obama-care could be rescinded after the election and changes in Washington, putting the insurance of millions in jeopardy.  But Wood notes the state’s healthcare marketplace could outlast that repeal.

The New York State of Health is self-sustaining and Governor Cuomo is a big believer that this works.  That’s one of the reasons that New York State went and did this on our own, took the money to make our own marketplace.  So federally, if the affordable care act goes away, if the national marketplace goes away, New York State is going to stay.” 

Under Obama-Care New York’s uninsured rate fell below five-percent.  Information about the health navigators is at: A-C-R Health-dot-org.  

Process to access care through insurance programs. CLICK TO EXPAND

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Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.