The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced on June 24 that open enrollment for the new federally-run health insurance exchange (called the “Health Insurance Marketplace”) being implemented under the Health Care Law, will begin October 1, 2013.
HHS has launched new online tools and a new toll-free telephone number with 24/7 live customer support to help consumers prepare to utilize the benefits available to them via the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
To educate and prepare consumers who may choose to utilize this new way of acquiring affordable health insurance, HHS announced, it has revised and re-launched, HealthCare.gov, as a new, consumer-focused website, with “new tools [that] will help Americans understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1.” Coverage under plans purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplace will begin January 1, 2014, pursuant to the Health Care Law.
The newly launched HealthCare.gov contains information to help you determine whether you qualify for reduced premiums or for reduced out-of-pocket costs under a health insurance plan you may purchase on the new exchanges.
The new federally-run Health Insurance Marketplace accessible from HealthCare.gov will be available to consumers residing in states that have declined to provide their own state-run health insurance exchanges under the Health Care Law.
For consumers residing in states which have elected to provide their own health insurance exchanges under the law, the new HealthCare.gov includes a tool to determine whether your state is providing its own exchange, and if so, a link to where you can access the new state-run exchange. State-run exchanges must include at least the same or greater benefits for consumers as will be available through the federally-run exchange.
According to a concurrent announcement issued June 24 by the White House, “When open enrollment starts on October 1, 2013, you’ll be able to use the site [HealthCare.gov] to compare various health care plans side by side to find a plan that fits your life and your budget. You’ll even be able to use HealthCare.gov to apply for coverage or be directed to your own state’s application portal.”
At the same time, HHS announced that it has also launched a “24-hours-a-day consumer call center to help Americans prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance.” This will allow consumers to speak with a live customer service representative at any time via a new toll free telephone number: (1-800-318-2596).
What’s On the New HealthCare.gov Website?
“HealthCare.gov is the destination for the Health Insurance Marketplace,” HHS said in its news release Monday. “Americans may now access new educational information and learn what they can do to begin to get ready for open enrollment this fall. The website will add functionality over the summer so that, by October, consumers will be able to create accounts, complete an online application, and shop for qualified health plans.”
“For Spanish speaking consumers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov will also be updated to match HealthCare.gov’s new consumer focus,” HHS said.
Other features of the new HealthCare.gov will include the following, according to the HHS release:
- “Integration of social media, and sharable content,”
- Links to other “destinations for consumers to get more information,”
- “Web chat functionality to support additional consumer inquiries,”
- “A responsive design so that consumers may access it from their desktops, smart-phones, and other mobile devices,” and
- “An application interface at www.healthcare.gov/developers,” which provides the functionality for other websites to publish and share content from HealthCare.gov.
How to Get Live Customer Service Help
As referenced above, concurrently with the launch of the updated HealthCare.gov website, HHS has opened a new call center providing free live customer service help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, via a toll-free telephone number: (1-800-318-2596). If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call 1-855-889-4325.
“Between now and the start of open enrollment, the Marketplace call center will provide educational information and, beginning Oct. 1, 2013, will assist consumers with application completion and plan selection,” HHS said in its release.
This means there will be “two great ways to talk to customer service representatives, 24/7: a new 1-800 number (1-800-318-2596) and online chat [via HealthCare.gov],” the White House statement emphasized.
How Can the New Health Insurance Marketplace Help You?
Following is some introductory information provided on HealthCare.gov:
Open enrollment starts October 1, 2013. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is sometimes known as the health insurance ‘exchange.’”
. . .
“Insurance plans in the Marketplace are offered by private companies, and they cover the same core set of benefits called essential health benefits. No plan can turn you away or charge you more because you have an illness or medical condition. Plans can’t charge women more than men.”
“The Marketplace simplifies your search for health coverage by gathering the options available in your area in one place. With one application you can compare plans based on price, benefits, quality, and other features important to you before you make a choice. You can also get help online, by phone, by chat, or in person.”
“In the Marketplace, information about prices and benefits is written in simple language. You get a clear picture of what premiums you’d pay and what benefits and protections you’d get before you enroll. Compare plans based on what’s important to you, and choose the combination of price and coverage that fits your needs and budget.”
“While all insurance plans are offered by private companies, the Marketplace is run by either your state or the federal government. Find out if your state is operating the Marketplace by using the menu at the bottom of this page [on HealthCare.gov]. If your state runs the Marketplace, you’ll get health coverage through your state’s website, not on this one, [HealthCare.gov].”
Timeline for Implementation of Insurance Marketplace under the Health Care Law
Following is a schematic diagram published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), illustrating key dates and events on the projected Timeline for implementation of the Insurance Marketplace under the Health Care Law. Click to enlarge the image »
For more news and information about the Health Care Law (the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature Health Care Law), and about health care reform, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on VoicesForCare™, including:
- News on Health Care Reform;
- Editorials: What Needs Improvement, With Your Comments;
- Advocacy: Proposals for Reform, With Your Comments;
- Legislation: Pending & Recently Adopted; and
- National & International Health Care Compare: Compare Health Care & Long-Term Care Statistics and Solutions in the 50 U.S. States and in Other Countries.
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