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SUMMARY: The New York state individual insurance marketplace is still a dicey place to be, a few days before the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1. Here are a few adventures …



I went back to the New York State of Health to continue my application (here’s a post about my first visit).

What I learned today.

Buying insurance on the exchanges is a mixed bag. Now that the New York State of Health website appears to be running fine, the individual insurers are the trip-up.

Malfunctioning web sites, no actual live advice on the phone, crashed provider search tools … It’s got a startuppy feel.

Empire Blue Cross‘s search for its provider network must be done through The provider network search tool is malfunctioning, but you can download a 2,049-page document and search it using “Command-F” — that is, if you are using Internet Explorer. IE-8 is what it’s designed on, and what the very nice Empire rep named Al in Colorado explained to me. The document download crashed on both Chrome and Firefox.

Empire Blue Cross has a “multistate” silver plan that doesn’t actually differ from its non-multistate offerings. So one could think it would cover children in college in other states, but it doesn’t. “It does not mean you can get a primary-care physician in another state,” Al said.  “Most people would believe that they would be able to obtain the same services. But the only services out of state would be emergency services.”

One big piece of information: For Empire, New York plans cover New York providers. Not Connecticut providers, or New Jersey providers, as was previously true for many insurance plans in the tri-state metro area. New York providers. Period.

Oscar’s provider search tool was also down all weekend.

The very nice Jim from Oscar sent me a link to their provider tool today (Monday morning). Oscar is the new insurance company based in New York that was founded by Jared Kushner, the entrepreneur; it’s funded by $55 million in investments — up from $40 million a few months ago.

Oscar plans to disrupt the industry; they’re running ads saying “Health insurance that won’t make your head explode. And if it does, you’re covered.”

He did tell me they use the Magnacare network, which is the same one used by Health Republic. (Health Republic is the new co-op formed by Freelancers Union head Sara Horowitz under the new co-op rules offered by the Affordable Care Act.)

Health Republic is sending all its incoming calls about enrollments to a sub-contractor, who promised someone would call back in 24 to 48 hours. It’s Dec. 16. The deadline is Dec. 23.

Health Republic and Oscar apparently use the Magnacare network. Health Republic says that on its website; on the Oscar site, you have a cool search tool that doesn’t refer to Magnacare, but my buddy Jim said that’s what they use.

The hospital search I did on the Health Republic site showed New Jersey hospitals under Magnacare. A hospital search on Oscar showed only New York hospitals.

This suggests that Health Republic has a bigger network than Empire or Oscar. But it would be hard to know since Empire’s search tool is down, and Health Republic isn’t coming to the phone.

The screenshot above shows advertising on our site that comes to us via the Google AdSense network: ads are targeted to you based on your Web usage. Both Oscar and Health Republic are targeting me; Empire is not.



Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...