MONDAY, Jan. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There's still time to
enroll in a health insurance plan through one of the Affordable
Care Act's new online marketplaces. And if you sign up by
Wednesday, you'll have coverage starting next month.
Open enrollment for 2014 runs through March 31. For people who
enroll by Jan. 15, coverage takes effect on Feb. 1. For those who
sign up from Jan. 16-30, coverage starts March 1.
The health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, were created
under the Affordable Care Act to help uninsured Americans shop for
a health plan. The federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, is the gateway
for people to sign up in 34 states. Sixteen states and the District
of Columbia are running their own exchanges.
Sign-ups began Oct. 1, 2013. But due to technical problems with
the HealthCare.gov website and some of the state marketplaces,
would-be users may have shied away.
Many of those individuals weren't aware of the exchanges or the
financial assistance available to them under the health-reform law,
a recent Commonwealth Fund survey found.
The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" as some people know it,
became the law of the land in 2010. But the rollout of new, private
health coverage under the law only took effect this year.
"There's time left, and that is why this enrollment period was six months," said Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund, which is tracking Americans' experiences with the marketplaces.
Policymakers knew it would take time for consumers to become
aware of their health plan options through the exchanges, Collins
It remains to be seen how many people will enroll in private
health-plan coverage this year or whether cost concerns will keep
The Urban Institute's latest Health Reform Monitoring Survey
examined the experiences of uninsured adults in the "non-group"
health insurance market last year, before the exchanges opened for
business. Among uninsured adults eligible for enrollment in the new
marketplaces, 63 percent cited affordability as the main reason for
not buying health insurance in 2013.
"Cost has historically been a barrier. What's different now is that there's really some relief coming with the Affordable Care Act," said Katherine Hempstead, team director and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is providing some funding for the survey. Specifically, people may be eligible for tax credits or cost-sharing assistance, depending on their income.
She said the survey results underscore the need for enrollment
and outreach programs to spread the word about the financial help
available through the marketplaces.
Consumers should keep a few other key Affordable Care Act facts
and deadlines in mind:
Visit HealthCare.gov for more information on
key enrollment dates.
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