NYC launches Web-based health insurance exchange for city residents

New York City became the first local government to launch an independent, Web-based tool that helps residents find health insurance coverage based on a number of best-fit indicators, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.

The tool, New York City Health Insurance Link, helps New Yorkers match health plans targeted to small business owners, freelancers and other independent or unemployed workers who are looking for more affordable coverage. Although NYC is the first local government to launch such a tool, Massachusetts adopted a similar program when it passed statewide healthcare reform in 2006. Mayor Bloomberg said the effort was launched in part because the city could no longer wait for Washington, D.C. to act on health reform.

“We absolutely need Washington to act on health reform. But we can’t afford to wait for them to help more people get health insurance coverage – and we’re not,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement.

Joined by several administration officials, Mayor Bloomberg said that affordable health insurance was vital to both personal and financial health and that NYC Health Insurance Link was part of an ongoing effort to help residents navigate through their choices, using an unbiased online tool.

“Like ACCESS NYC and our work to add new human services content to 311, the Bloomberg administration is doing more than ever to make sure New Yorkers have the information and tools they need regarding assistance and benefits,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, joining Mayor Bloomberg at the unveiling.

NYC Health Insurance Link builds on previous projects launched by the Bloomberg administration, such as HealthStat, 311 and ACCESS NYC. NYC Health Insurance Link is a free search engine that targets uninsured small businesses, individuals and freelancers, but is available for anyone to use. The tool allows residents to search and compare health plans, including those with low- and high deductibles; those with and without benefits like prescription drug coverage; and those with open and closed provider networks. NYC Health Insurance Link also has the flexibility to adapt to future federal and state health care reforms.

NYC’s Office of Citywide Health Insurance Access (OCHIA) worked with Management Information Systems (MIS), and divisions of NYC’s Human Resources Administration/ Department of Social Services (HRA/DSS) to develop the website. But Connecticut-based HealthConnect Systems and the California-based Trizetto Group were brought on to develop the technology on which the website operates.

HealthConnect is a leading online network provider for buyers and sellers of health insurance and employee benefits. And TriZetto provides information technology solutions that enable payers and other constituents in the healthcare supply chain to improve the coordination of benefits and care for healthcare consumers. In May 2009, the two formed a long-term strategic partnership to Central to help governmental organizations implement health insurance exchanges, also referred to as connectors, from which governmental organizations can provide citizens access to a complete range of health plans from multiple providers.

“This is a first for New York City, and a bold step for local government,” OCHIA Executive Deputy Commissioner Marjorie Cadogan said.

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