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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Obamacare's Online Marketplaces Open Oct. 1

Hannah Madans |
October 1, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

(Didi Beck, Neon Tommy)
(Didi Beck, Neon Tommy)

The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will create online marketplaces, or exchanges, open for enrollment starting Oct. 1. These online marketplaces will allow people and small employers to compare health insurance plans and apply for subsidies if eligible.

These exchanges aim to make it easier to buy health insurance and could eventually lead to lower prices due to increased competition.

Policies that are purchased will go into effect Jan. 1.

Sixteen states (including California) and Washington, D.C. will have their own exchanges. The federal government is setting up exchanges in 27 other states and federal and state officials will run the exchanges together in the remaining seven states. 

In order to purchase health insurance, consumers will need to go online to healthcare.gov or a state-run exchange, fill out an application and provide some basic information.

The exchanges will also aide people in determining if they are eligible for federal subsidies that would help cover the cost of coverage or Medicaid.

The exchange will then offer a list of possible insurance plans for the customer to choose from.

This process can also be done with a paper application or over the phone.

The exchange will not affect everyone, however, because many people already have coverage through their jobs. The marketplaces, therefore, are aimed at people who are uninsured. If a worker deems their employer-based coverage too expensive, they will be able to buy a plan on the exchange instead.

Obamacare will aide people by providing lower subsidies to minimize premium payments for people whose income is up to 400 percent of the poverty level.

Obamacare does not, as some have suggested, allow illegal immigrants to buy coverage. Legal immigrants, however, are allowed to use it.

The plan as a whole has been largely debated by lawmakers. Sen. Ted Cruz even took to the Senate floor for 21 hours and 19 minutes starting Sept. 24 in an effort to slow down Obamacare.

The Texas Republican's reaction followed a 230-189 vote in the House of Representatives which approved a plan to continue federal agencies by defunding the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz held the floor until the Senate voted on Obamacare procedural motions. The Senate voted 100-0 on a plan to avoid a government, shut down, while keeping funding for Obamacare.

Republicans are still fighting to end Obamacare, but for now it will move forward after House Republicans voted to  delay Obamacare for one year.

Still, the Oct. 1 start day for online marketplaces is rapidly approaching.

The health-benefits exchange program in California, Covered California, is expected to be one of the nation's best. The group has been doing a lot of outreach about Obamacare to educate the public.

It has also been working with Spanish-language media outlets to inform the Latino community.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to have a major impact in Los Angeles, particularly with Health Way L.A.'s transition to Medi-Cal.

Across the country, some business will have to adjust as well. Some will change full-time employees to part-time because businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees do not have to offer health insurance coverage.

Many individual companies have also received attention for their reaction to Obamacare.

Under the act, those under the age of 26 will be able to stay on their parents health insurance plans. Student health insurance plans offered by colleges are also changing and will now include more services in exchange for students paying higher premiums.

Obamacare will result many changes in America's healthcare system, some of which can be seen in free clinics.



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Read more Obamacare coverage here.

Reach Deputy Editor Hannah Madans here.



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