Affordable Care Act: Exchange sign up starts October 1

The first dose of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is nearly ready to start rolling.

People can sign up for health insurance through the Health Care Marketplace starting on Tuesday, October 1, which will take effect when provisions of the legislation start on January 1, 2014.

The sign-up period will continue until March 31, and consumers can apply for Marketplace coverage online, by mail or in-person.

The Marketplaces work either through individual state health departments or with the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 36 states. In New York consumers have to go to www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov if they want to apply for coverage under the Marketplace.

Prices and applications in the Marketplace will be available on October 1.

The exchanges are designed to help people find lower premiums. The system gathers all available insurance options in the state and rates them in a simple structure– bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans will be the cheapest with the fewest benefits, while platinum will be the most expensive.

This week the national health department released a report that said the plans on the exchanges will make insurance premiums on average more affordable.

Obamacare will force companies to drop discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, so for example people with diabetes or asthma won’t be charged larger premiums or refused coverage.

Some provisions of the health care reform act are already in action, such as children being able to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

Since the legislation was designed to help people without insurance find coverage by making it more affordable, if someone already has a private health care plan or receives care through another method, such as a company plan, they will not need to apply for a new plan from the exchanges.

Someone who does not have health insurance by January 1 will have to pay a fee of one percent of their income or $95, whichever is higher, and the fee for each uninsured child is $47.50, with a cap of $285 per family. This fee will increase every year, but there are ways to be exempted, such as being a member of a religious sect that has objections to insurance.

Republican leaders have been trying to delay Obamacare, saying that it will be too costly and raise taxes. Senator Ted Cruz held a marathon 21-hour speech in opposition to the legislation from Tuesday, September 24 to September 25.

For more information visit: https://www.healthcare.gov.