On October 1, 2013, the new ACA healthcare marketplaces opened their doors for enrollment, despite the problems triggered by the government shut down. Although often referred to as exchanges, officially, these are called marketplaces.
The new ACA (Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare) insurance marketplace healthcare.gov has gone live. But not without problems- technology glitches are part of a new and complex service.
The marketplaces are supported by mandatory funds already appropriated, so their funding stream was not totally choked off by the government shutdown. But, with fewer employees on the job, systemic problems may not be as quickly solved.
One thing is obvious: the site is, and will continue to be, overwhelmingly popular. USA Today quotes HHS (Health and Human Services) estimates of more than 4.7 million hits on opening day. But, with nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, that is only a hint of what’s to come.
The internet is not the only way to sign up. If you’d rather talk than type, use the 24/7 hotline number (1-800-318-2596). You can talk to a customer service representative, but be prepared to wait. Access to a speakerphone so you can multi-task while you wait might be a good idea.
The enrollment period continues through March 31, 2014. That’s a six month window. And the sooner you sign up – especially if you’re uninsured – the better.
If you don't want to do the call or visit the website, insurance brokers are happy to help, for a fee. ACA funding provides access to "navigators" whose job is to help you, just as soon as they can take your call.
Remember: however you sign up, insurance coverage under these new plans will not begin until January 1, 2014 if you sign up by December 15, 2013. Otherwise, enrollment is on a rolling basis over the next 6 months.
Check out healthcare.gov for more information and to browse available insurance options.
This is the first of a Your Health Matters series to help explain important details of the Affordable Care Act. If you have a particular question you would like answered, send your request to