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Online Heath Insurance Marketplace Set to Open October 1

Updated: Tuesday, September 24 2013, 04:42 PM CDT

Nearly 10 percent of the people who live in Springfield don't have health insurance. The health care exchange, an online marketplace where people will be able to shop for and buy health insurance plans, is set to go online October 1. But many in our area are still confused about how the exchange works.

Monday, local Affordable Care Act representatives described the process, and where they are in preparing for the marketplace to open. Basically, for uninsured individuals, families, or small businesses, the health insurance marketplace officers a variety of coverages to purchase online.

The price of policies will be partially subsidized through tax credits for many people. Others who go through the application process to use the marketplace will qualify for free or low cost plans.

Open enrollment for these policies will last through March 31, 2014. For those who do not have health insurance, and do not purchase at least minimal insurance in the exchange by the end of open enrollment, a fine will be assessed.

Right now, more than 1,000 people are trained or training statewide to help uninsured individuals through the process of the health care marketplace, and help them find the right health insurance plan. Many of those trained to help are already working in the community and easy to find if you have questions.

"Our plan is to do a lot of internal enrollment, meaning we will work with a lot of the families in Head Start and a lot of the programs we already have," Kimberly Bonds with the Springfield Urban League said.

The health insurance marketplace is not ready yet, but when it goes live on October 1, it will offer four different levels of coverage from a variety of insurance companies. Local hospitals and community organizations will refer their uninsured clients to this website.

For many people who are uninsured right now, health insurance is simply too expensive.

"I think it's financial," Brian Reardon with the Hospital Sisters Health System said. "For a lot of them, I think it's how they are going to pay for it? We're hoping--we haven't seen the rates yet on the insurance marketplaces, but we're hoping there are plans that are, in fact, reasonable."

Even those who are working closely with the healthcare exchange can't tell us what insurance premiums will cost, or if it will be cheaper than other insurance options.

Jessica Stambaugh is a soon-to-be mom who lost her job, and with it, her health insurance. She's hoping the exchange will help her growing family, but is still worried about the cost of plans in the marketplace.

"Me and my husband kind of looked into his work, to getting insurance through his work, and when he did open enrollment it was going to be just me and him, that's not counting the baby, and it was going to be almost $300," Stambaugh said.

To participate in the exchange, there are a few steps. Set up an account when the website is ready. Then fill out an application. The application will determine who will qualify for any free or low-cost plans, subsidies, or tax credits. From there, participants can review the costs and benefits of each plan and enroll.

The exchange is only for the uninsured and the under-insured. If you're in these groups and you don't purchase health insurance, you'll eventually face a fine at the end of 2014.

For 2014, the fine equals 1 percent of your annual income, or $95 per person, whichever is higher. The fee for an uninsured child is $47.50, with a family cap at $285. Fees will increase quite a bit in 2016.

Click here for more information on how the Affordable Care Act will affect you.

Online Heath Insurance Marketplace Set to Open October 1


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Enrollment for healthcare exchanges as part of healthcare reform begins October 1 in states where exchanges will be set up. Expect special reports each week from us about what you need to know about 'Obamacare' and the ongoing political fight about its future.

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