NY government website lists bakery, mechanic for Obamacare help
(CNN) — The New York state’s health exchange website offers a slew of organizations in place to help people sign up for coverage. There’s just one problem: This week, the list included businesses whose owners have no idea how to give New Yorkers health insurance advice.
“I can fix your car, but I don’t think I can fix your health,” Marco Abad of Zambrand Auto Repair told CNN on Wednesday.
Abad said they were surprised when their Brooklyn business started receiving calls yesterday about the Affordable Care Act.
The health insurance marketplace opened on October 1, providing a navigator with a 230-page list of agency locations and site schedules in New York state, including phone numbers to call with health insurance inquiries.
The list intentionally includes details for places like coffee shops where, even if they’re not a place you’d normally associate with health care, people can meet with advisers who can guide them toward a plan, New York state health department spokesman Bill Schwarz explained.
Yet in some cases, addresses and phone numbers for such advisers were listed incorrectly, Schwarz said. In other cases, the information is correct but the “navigator” (the person who can lead individuals through the health care process) didn’t tell the proprietors of the listed meeting place about it. Either way, the state spokesman said these errors don’t appear to be pervasive or statewide.
Even if they are fixed by week’s end, as Schwarz promised, the errors by then already will have caused plenty of headaches — like for Gus Rodriguez, manager of Brooklyn Cupcake. He said his shop has received an additional 25 calls per day since the beginning of October — just not because of an increased interest in their sweet confections.
Apex Car and Limo Inc. manager Dmitry Rozalovsky told CNN they were confused by the Obamacare-related calls they received, but didn’t put two and two together until members of the media showed up outside their Brooklyn location Wednesday.
“First, we thought it was kind of a joke,” Roxalovsky said.
Bowery Pharmacy manager Patrick Wu said his establishment too has been getting calls.
According to Wu, the Manhattan pharmacy usually gets two to three calls per day. But since October 1, Wu said he’s personally answered more than 50 additional calls each day from New Yorkers inquiring about health insurance.
At first, the callers are confused, but then get “very frustrated” when they realize they’re not speaking to an Affordable Care Act navigator, Wu said.
Wu, who filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Health, said he is also frustrated because the misguided phone calls distract him from the pharmacy’s business.
“They interrupt my work,” Wu said.
Rodriguez said he informed the state health department about the mistake, but said they are still receiving the calls.
On the bright side, Brooklyn Cupcake employees are hopeful the extra calls will result in more cupcake sales, he said.
“We can’t help with Obamacare, but we’re pretty good with cupcakes around here; so we do offer those in lieu of some health care options,” Rodriguez said, laughing.
CNN’s Rande Iaboni contributed to this story.