The roll-out of the online health insurance marketplace, a key piece of federal health reform, was anything but smooth in October. The online marketplaces were billed as an easy way for people to shop for insurance, but few were able to sign up during its first few weeks. Even President Obama admitted it was “poor execution” for his administration to launch a website that didn’t work.
After two months and several fixes to the HealthCare.gov website, Americans without health insurance have been able to sign up. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, requires most all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty on their tax returns.
About 27,000 Americans selected plans through HealthCare.gov in all of October, compared with 100,000 people in November and 112,000 people in the first week of December after website fixes went live. Now that the federal website is working, we wanted to revisit an infographic we prepared for the initial launch of the online marketplaces in October.
The infographic explains what the marketplaces are, how they work and what they offer. Here are a few of the key points:
- The online marketplace offers consumers a choice of health plans. Lower-cost plans are available based on an individual’s income. Consumers can compare options side-by-side and enroll online.
- People with low and moderate incomes may be eligible for a tax credit, which can be used right away to reduce their monthly premiums.
- Those who can afford insurance but don’t have it in 2014 may have to pay a fee on their 2014 tax return. In 2014, it will cost you $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or about 1 percent of an individual’s income, whichever is greater. The penalties will rise each year.
- People with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage or charged more in health plans through the public exchange and most plans outside the exchanges.
- All plans for individuals and small businesses in the public and private exchanges must offer the same essential benefits, including: prescriptions, preventive care, doctor visits, emergency services and hospitalization.
- There are four plan levels in the health insurance exchange: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Thy all generally offer the same essential benefits, but their cost structures vary. The lower the premium, the higher the out-of-pocket costs.
Learn more about the health insurance marketplaces and the Affordable Care Act.