Do you need help getting health insurance in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare"? The state of New York published a 228-page list of "navigators" who might be able to help you through the process.
The only problem with this particular move? An alarming number of the designated navigators had no idea they were on the list or why, according a report by DNAinfo New York.
Dozens of New York City businesses listed on the site were completely in the dark about the program when called or visited by a DNAinfo reporter.
"I'm sorry, honey, you have the wrong number. This is a car service. We don't do health here," said a dispatcher at APEX Car & Limo, Inc, at 579 Smith St., which is listed as a navigator site through the nonprofit group Brooklyn Perinatal.
Patrick Wu, the manager of Bowery Pharmacy at 95 Bowery, which was supposed to be a navigator site through the nonprofit group APICHA, said he had no idea about the navigator program.
“So many people have called. It’s disturbing," Wu said. "I don't know how you got this number."
Dr. Lisa Kaplan, the director of communications at African Services, a Harlem-based non-profit that was among the locations listed under Harlem United/APICHA, said she also had no idea about the navigator program when asked about it earlier this month.
In addition, she said, her organization deals with clients who wouldn't even be eligible for the healthcare exchange because they're not citizens.
"A lot of our clients are African immigrants who wouldn’t be eligible for those services,” Kaplan said. [Emphasis added]
The site also references Brooklyn Cupcake Inc., where a woman reportedly said, "I'm not even sure what that is" before hanging up. TheBlaze also called the business and was told that they don't do healthcare, "just cupcakes."
So how did such companies end up identified by NY State of Health, the "official health plan marketplace" of the state, as navigators? It should be noted that there is a warning that matters are "subject to change."
Since the the name and address of the organizations are identified - as well as the lead agency and subcontractor's name - it is likely not a case where the number of a cupcake shop, for instance, was mistakenly entered in the place of a navigator's. It seems they meant to identify the cupcake shop.
TheBlaze called NY State of Health, where the list was posted, for an explanation, but got no immediate response.
But DNAinfo reports that a spokesman for the New York State Department of Health admitted last week: “That is not the correct list...That’s something we’re looking into. We can't tell you anything more about this.”
Yet the page is still available as of this article's publication.
In looking into the issue, DNAinfo did find one possible explanation, however:
Melanie Dulfo, the community health program manager for APICHA, one of the agencies that got a contract to provide navigator services, said her employer offered a very early list of proposed outreach sites to the state DOH as part of a grant proposal — but never actually reached out to those sites to see if they'd be on board.
“I didn’t think this list was going to be public,” said Dulfo, who compiled the list based on sites they had worked with in the past. [Emphasis added]
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