The political whirlwind that has shut down the federal government continues to come back to a single point of conflict: funding the Affordable Care Act.
But for all the debate, it is rare for a solid explanation of the law’s impact on the average American to rise above the political din. This has left many individuals with unanswered questions, even as the bulk of the law goes into effect this week.
One key part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that went into effect on Oct. 1 is called the “health insurance marketplace.” Essentially, these marketplaces are new, online systems for comparing and purchasing private health insurance—which, under the Affordable Care Act, is required by law of those who do not receive health insurance from their employer or from the government.
Each state now has its own health insurance marketplace, which individual residents may access by way of an online application process.
Becky Trigg, director of marketing at Mountain West Medical Center, said Utah’s marketplace currently offers 99 different plans from 10 insurance companies. Consumers who qualify to access the marketplace are free to choose between any of the available options.
However, most Americans will not need to use the marketplace to buy health insurance. Those who already have insurance that meets federal requirements—the new law prevents insurance providers from denying or penalizing customers with pre-existing conditions—do not need to change their insurance.
Consequently, Americans who have insurance through their employers, as well as those who get insurance through the government through programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP, are not necessarily impacted by the Oct. 1 roll-out.
The marketplaces will remain open from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2014. Those who do not have insurance coverage by the end of March will be penalized on their taxes. Next year, as well as in subsequent years, the marketplaces will only remain open from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
For citizens who do purchase their own health insurance, or for those who would like to see if they qualify for financial aid initiatives that are newly available to low- and moderate-income households, Mountain West Medical Center has made two certified specialists available for free consultations.
These specialists can review how the Affordable Care Act will impact individual families on a case-by-case basis. They can also help residents with the marketplace application process, and work with them to find financial aid that might help them acquire better coverage.
To schedule an appointment with Mountain West Medical Center’s eligibility services, call 435-843-3713.