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Cupcake Store Among Wrong Businesses Listed on State Obamacare Signup Site

By Max Willens | October 29, 2013 1:13pm | Updated on October 30, 2013 5:14pm
 President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the error-plagued launch of the Affordable Care Act's online enrollment website in the Rose Garden of the White House October 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the error-plagued launch of the Affordable Care Act's online enrollment website in the Rose Garden of the White House October 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

HARLEM — The state Health Department published the wrong list of sites where New Yorkers can get help signing up for Obamacare — leaving businesses confused about why people keep asking them about health insurance, a spokesman admitted to DNAinfo New York.

Under federal law, the state was supposed to work with agencies to provide a host of healthcare exchange navigators to "provide in-person enrollment assistance to individuals, families, small businesses and their employees who apply for health insurance through the Exchange" starting on Oct. 1,  when the program went live.

But in September, when the state published its 228-page list of locations where navigators could be found, along with the days and times they were supposed to be available to the public, they published the wrong one, according to a DOH spokesman.

“That is not the correct list,” said Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Health, when DNAinfo New York asked him about the list last week. “That’s something we’re looking into. We can't tell you anything more about this.”

The list — which includes everything from senior centers to bakeries, taxi companies and cupcake shops — was still on the DOH's website Tuesday.


It's the latest in a long line of technical and organizational snafus for the controversial exchange, which has been hit with criticism over its rollout of its signup website.

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.

At Brooklyn Cupcake, Inc., located at 335 Union Ave., a woman named Amy who answered the phone said, "I'm not even sure I know what that is," before hanging up.

The business is listed as a navigator site under the Brooklyn Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a subcontractor of Brooklyn Perinatal.

One of the agencies responsible for providing the data on the site offered a possible explanation for the mixup.

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.

APICHA, in conjuction with subcontractor agency Harlem United, was supposed to be putting navigators at 53 sites since Oct. 1. However, Dulfo said APICHA is still in the process of completing its final list of sites, and won't have it done until next month. There will be less than 10 sites on its new list, she said.

She added that the agency has trained approximately seven navigators so far, and has been signing up people for the health exchange at their headquarters. She did not say how many people have been signed up.

According to Sara Rothstein, the director of policy and planning at the New York State Department of Health, the program is designed to reach the most diverse corners of New York City’s population, including those that may not be aware of the state’s newly launched exchange website or who aren't comfortable using its phone service.


NY State DOH Health Exchange Navigator Agencies