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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Health Insurance Marketplaces Open for Business

Health Reform and the Government Shutdown continued...

Whether the problems will affect long-term enrollment in the Exchanges isn’t clear. Groups hired by various Marketplaces to help people with enrollment, called “navigator” organizations, said they weren’t very busy with calls, even though there seemed to be lots of interest on web sites.

Lin Jenkins, a consumer assistance supervisor at Avita, a full-service hospital in Crawford County, Ohio, said at 1 p.m. Tuesday that neither she nor her staff had fielded any phone calls, emails, or instant messages.

"I have seen nothing today, and my email address is the one online. I’m kind of surprised by that, since we were first up on the list. Whether it's because it's the first day and people are just kind of waiting, or they're confused because of the government shutdown, I'm not quite sure," Jenkins said.

Erin Loubier, director of public benefits at the Whitman-Walker Health, a navigator organization based in Washington ,D.C., said “many people just need to time to feel comfortable with it and get information about policies before they jump in a buy something.”

Premium Prices

When people were able to access the Marketplaces, there was detailed information about the premiums for insurance products. One of the keys to whether the Marketplaces will work is if there is affordable coverage.

William Custer, director of the Center for Health Services Research at Georgia State University, said the premiums he has seen from Marketplaces across the country look “really affordable and are equal or less than what many people are paying now” for insurance on the individual market.

Federal tax credits to pay for premiums are a big part of that. For example, Custer said a person under 30 who is making $24,000 a year will receive about $200 a month in federal subsidies to pay for coverage.

Still, the price for insurance for many young people may be more than they are willing to pay. Custer said policies for those under 30 who are healthy are about 10% to 15% more expensive than what they can buy in individual insurance markets currently, but they will receive more benefits than are offered in most policies.

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