News on the Health Insurance Exchanges: Website Re-launched, Call Center Opens

News on the Health Insurance Exchanges:  Website Re-launched, Call Center Opens
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

On June 24, The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced the re-launch of the website for the health care reform law, www.healthcare.gov, and the opening of the 24-hour Marketplace consumer call center at 1-800-318-2596. The call center will provide educational information until open enrollment starts, then it will provide help with the application process. HHS insists they are on target for the open enrollment start date of October 1.

Input Information

If you go to the website, you will be asked a series of questions:

  • Are you looking for individual or small business coverage?
  • In what state do you live?
  • What is your age?
  • What is your gender?
  • What type of health insurance coverage do you currently have?
  • Would you like information on certain situations (e.g., pregnancy, self-employment, Native American)?
  • Would you like information regarding pre-existing conditions?
  • How many people will be on your tax return in 2014?
  • Will your income in 2014 be below $XX,XXX? Based on your family size, this number reflects a baseline for tax credits and Medicaid eligibility.

The Output

It’s still difficult to get any specific information on the types and costs of coverage for which you may be eligible. The output you receive is pretty vague. You may be told that you can lower your costs with Marketplace coverage and that your family may now be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

  • More families will now be eligible starting in 2014 but remember that the Supreme Court gave states the option to opt-out of Medicaid expansion.
  • As of June 14, 2013, 13 states (including Oklahoma) have opted out and another 6 states are leaning towards opting out.

Where the States Stand

You will get a “customized checklist” on what you will need to apply for coverage during open enrollment. Try not to feel too special – everyone gets the same basic information.

There was one item in this checklist that caught my attention. If you or anyone in your household is eligible for a job-based health insurance plan, you need to submit the Employer Coverage Tool worksheet. You need to submit this even if you are not going to enroll in the employer plan. Your employer is supposed to fill this out. I would not worry too much about this right now. Your employer should have a system in place for supplying this worksheet to you by the October 1 enrollment date.

Key Dates

HHS also released some key dates in preparation for open enrollment:

  • In July, you will be able to set up an account at www.healthcare.gov.
  • Starting sometime in September, you should be able to get personalized help in your area.

I will be monitoring their progress and will do my best to keep you posted. For more information, visit my Health Care Reform page.