The new Health Insurance Marketplace set up by the Affordable Care Act opened Tuesday, and Tennessee residents can apply for coverage, compare plans, and enroll at HealthCare.gov.
“For the first time ever, today all Americans can begin shopping for quality health coverage that is affordable, and not be denied or charged more because they have a pre-existing condition,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release.
The HHS said the Health Insurance Marketplace will allow uninsured Americans and their families to purchase health insurance in one place. Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1, 2014, for people enrolling by Dec. 15, 2013. Open enrollment closes March 31.
The HHS said outreach and enrollment activities in communities nationwide also kicked off Tuesday.
“For years, the financial, physical or mental health of millions of Americans suffered because they couldn’t afford the care they or their family needed,” said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary. “But thanks to the health care law, all of that is changing. Today’s launch begins a new day when health care coverage will be more accessible and affordable than ever before.”
A number of different resources are available to help consumers find marketplace coverage. They can get more information through HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Consumers can participate in online web chats or speak with trained customer service representatives, with translation services available in 150 languages. Community health centers, navigators, and other assisters are available in local communities to provide in-person help with coverage choices. Many local libraries will help consumers learn about their options and hundreds of Champions for Coverage, which are businesses and organizations all across the country, are helping people learn about their options and enroll in affordable coverage.
Contact by phone: The consumer call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 318-2596 toll free (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Assistance is available in 150 languages.
By mail: Health Insurance Marketplace , Dept. of Health and Human Services, 465 Industrial Blvd., London, KY 40750-0001
In person: Visit localhelp.healthcare.gov to find in-person assistance near you.
Enroll online at HealthCare.gov
Affordable Coverage Options
The press release said data released by HHS last week showed consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the federally facilitated marketplace, and the vast majority will have a choice of at least two different health insurance companies—usually more. Premiums nationwide will also be around 16 percent lower than originally expected—with about 95 percent of eligible uninsured living in states with lower-than-expected premiums—before taking into account financial assistance, the release said. Nearly six in 10 uninsured Americans could get insurance for $100 or less, with financial assistance and expanded access to Medicaid.
The marketplace includes a Small Business Health Option Program, or SHOP, designed for small employers with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. The SHOP will allow small employers a choice of a quality health insurance plans and let them make side-by-side comparisons to choose a plan that’s right for their business and employees, the release said.
Employers buying health insurance through the SHOP may also qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to help defray their premium costs.
“Hundreds of thousands of small businesses with fewer than 25 employees have already received a tax credit of up to 35 percent of their health insurance costs,” the release said. “And beginning in 2014, this tax credit will be worth as much as 50 percent of the employer’s contribution to premiums.”
Small businesses can reach the dedicated SHOP Marketplace call center at (800) 706-7893, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
For information on many of the outreach and enrollment events taking place across the country, visit http://marketplace.cms.gov/getofficialresources/other-partner-resources/events-calendar-for-ffm-and-spms-.pdf.