INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Health advocates working to enroll
uninsured Indiana residents through the federal exchange that opened
Tuesday said most people appear to be reviewing the new marketplace at the
center of the health care overhaul before actually buying health
Indiana residents began creating accounts through the federal insurance
exchange, also called a marketplace, along with residents of 35 other
states where leaders opted to let the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services run their exchanges.
The exchange represents the core of President Barack Obama's sweeping
health care overhaul, signed into law more than three years ago, which
includes a mandate that residents have health insurance or face tax
For now, at least, it looks like residents are still trying to understand
exactly what the exchange is and what their options are, said Marla
Asberry, an outreach specialist with Open Door Health Services and one of
the federal navigators assisting residents. Asberry and her staff spent
the day fielding calls from residents with questions about the exchange.
"I could see the middle of the enrollment clear up to the end" being busy,
she said Tuesday.
Customers must enroll by Dec. 15 for coverage to start Jan. 1. Customers
have until the end of March to sign up in order to avoid tax penalties.
Opening day for the federal exchange was filled with extensive delays and
technical problems, including missing buttons and password security
questions on the online application. Federal officials attributed the
slowdown to the surprisingly high volume of interest in the exchange on
its first day of operation.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, told reporters Tuesday that the federal insurance website had
seen 2.8 million hits, but would not say how many of those visitors had
actually enrolled in a new plan through the site.
Rates released by HHS last week showed Indiana residents will likely pay
between $100 and $1,000 depending on the size of their family, how much
they earn and how much they qualify for in federal tax credits. Indiana
officials estimate more than 500,000 residents are eligible for subsidized
insurance through the federal exchange.
Residents will buy plans from private insurers, but will have to go
through the federal exchange in order to receive the tax subsidies.
A spokesman for Indiana's Family and Social Services, which is expecting a
jump in Medicaid applications with the start of insurance mandate, said
the state saw "very little or no increase at all" in the number of calls
it received Tuesday.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence elected to let the federal government run the
exchange in Indiana, but the state has added temporary staff to deal with
the expected increase in insurance questions and applications.
Heather McCabe, a professor of social work at Indiana University-Purdue
University Indianapolis and expert on the health care law, also said a lot
of residents are still figuring out exactly what the insurance exchange is
and examining their options.
"I think that it is good we are seeing so much interest, even if the
interest is to see what is going on with it," she said Tuesday.
The opening of the exchange came the same day as a shutdown of the federal
government for the first time in 17 years. While the core of the federal
staff continued working on the exchange, regional aides like the
specialist overseeing Indiana were furloughed for the day.
http://www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.