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Obama’s Health Insurance Marketplace Opens October 1

healthcare-lawGet ready. The Health Insurance Marketplace, a cornerstone of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, officially opens October 1, 2013.

What is the Health Insurance Marketplace?

The Health Insurance Marketplace is an online portal through which uninsured Americans can shop for, and enroll in, health insurance plans. It is a health insurance exchange through all coverage options and costs are presented in a side-by-side comparison.

While enrollment starts in October, coverage won’t begin until January 1, 2014. Indiana is one of 34 other states that opted to let the federal government manage its health insurance exchange.

You’ll be able to choose from 4 different levels of coverage: bronze, silver, gold and platinum, with bronze being the most affordable and platinum being the least affordable. To illustrate, the bronze plan will cover just 60 percent of your costs, while the platinum will cover 90 percent.

Is Buying Insurance Mandatory?

Yes, if you don’t already have it come January 1, 2014 then you must buy insurance or else pay a fine of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is larger. However, if the cost of purchasing insurance exceeds 8 percent of your gross income, then you won’t have to pay the fine.

How Much Will It Cost?

Prices won’t be available until October. Until then, the Whitehouse  suggests using the Kaiser Family Foundation’s  health insurance costs and savings calculator.

New Consumer Rights and Protections

Under the new law, consumers enjoy new rights and protections. For example, you can’t be denied coverage, or be asked to pay a higher premium, for a pre-existing condition. What’s more, your health insurance can’t be cancelled by your insurance company in the event you get sick. It also puts an end to lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits. Free preventative care is offered under all plans, and insurance companies will be held accountable for rate increases. You will have a right to appeal coverage decisions. The law also puts an end to yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits.

How Do You Enroll?

Starting October 1, you can enroll by visiting the Whitehouse website. There, you will create an account with a username and password. You’ll then answer a series of questions about you income, family size, employer name and contact info. The information you enter will be cross-referenced against other federal databases to ensure accuracy. To actually buy the insurance you will be redirected to the insurer’s website. A 24-hour hot line will be available to anyone with questions about the application process.