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By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY - More than 40,000 New Yorkers signed up for insurance under the state's health exchange in its first week, the state Health Department said Tuesday.

The number surpasses the enrollment in any other state, the Health Department said, and comes after major problems with the website when the exchange launched Oct. 1. New York is hoping to enroll 1 million uninsured residents. The enrollment period runs until March 31.

"This fast pace of sign-ups shows that New York State's exchange is working smoothly with an overwhelming response from New Yorkers eager to get access to low cost health insurance," Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, the exchange program, said in a statement.

The exchange was overwhelmed by more than 30 million visits in its first few days, making it difficult for users to sign up for health insurance from among more than a dozen insurers.

Phone lines were also busy, but the state said Tuesday that 26,000 callers have been helped.

The state Health Department said it has improved its website, added more servers and the troubles have declined.

The state estimates that uninsured New Yorkers can save as much as 53 percent on health insurance through the exchanges compared to what they had been able to get on the open market. The exchange opens Jan. 1.

The exchanges are also open to small businesses with less than 50 people.

On average in New York, the plans range from $131 a month for individuals for basic catastrophic coverage to $360 a month for platinum coverage, the most comprehensive plan.

If a worker has insurance through their employer, they could still shop on the exchange, but they are unlikely to get lower rates.
Individuals with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for a family of four) could be eligible for assistance under the exchanges, including receiving income-tax credits.

For more information about the exchanges, visit www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, or call 1-855-355-5777.

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