As of October 1, the Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as the Health Insurance Exchange) is officially open. That means most Americans now have the opportunity to compare health insurance rates and sign up for insurance plans through a centralized website. If you’re uninsured or you have been looking for other health insurance options, you can now compare insurance rates side-by-side and enroll through the Marketplace website with a single application.
Wondering if the Marketplace will address your health insurance needs? Here are four things you should know about the new health insurance exchange before you enroll:
- Most people in the U.S. will be eligible for health coverage. To be eligible, you must live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national and cannot be currently incarcerated - which means most Americans are covered. Similarly, no plan can turn you away for a pre-existing medical condition. Plans are required to cover treatments for patients with pre-existing illnesses or conditions, and health insurance plans cannot charge women more than men for the same plan.
- Be prepared to provide information about your household size and income. Be sure you have all of your earnings and tax information handy when applying for a health insurance plan through the Marketplace. Depending on your household income, you may qualify for lower costs on your monthly premiums, lower out-of-pocket costs, or even free insurance through Medicaid of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Enrollment begins on October 1, but coverage does not begin until January 1, 2014. Health insurance plans and rates are available starting on October 1, 2013; however if you are currently uninsured and looking for coverage, your coverage through a health insurance exchange plan would not begin until 2014. There are other health insurance options if you need coverage that begins before next year, but they will likely be more expensive and through a private insurer.
- Health insurance plan information is written in plain ol’ English. The Marketplace allows you to compare plans side-by-side based on price, benefits and other features before you make a selection, meaning you should be able to get a clear picture of your premiums and coverage before you choose to enroll. All plans cover the same core set of benefits, like emergency services and prescription drugs, and many preventative services are covered at no cost across all plans.