Finally, Obamacare (also know as the Affordable Care Act) goes live despite fierce political debate. The health insurance exchanges started signing up customers today, though the coverage will come into effect on January 1, 2014. Millions of uninsured Americans can now sign up for new insurance options. President Barack Obama said Monday that Obamacare is moving forward. Political turmoil can’t shut it down.
The program will allow consumers to shop for insurance at online marketplaces called exchanges. They can compare premiums, get detailed information about deductibles and can purchase insurance. The federal government is running exchanges in 36 states. Obama Administration expects at least seven million individuals to sign up for private coverage by the end of 2014.
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Cost of insurance will vary among exchanges. But Administration officials estimate that it will make insurance more affordable by bringing down premiums. People with low and moderate income will receive federal subsidies. Analysts say that most customers will sign up in November and December.
Technical glitches affect Obamacare
As soon as the online marketplaces opened, they began to experience technical problems. At least 24 of the 36 federal government-run exchanges were showing error messages, reports David Morgan and Caroline Humer of Reuters. Many of them blamed online traffic for the technical problems.
Customers trying to access Maryland’s marketplace are shown a notice that there are connectivity problems. Minnesota officials told Christopher Weaver of The Wall Street Journal that they expect to launch their marketplace later on Tuesday. Massachusetts exchange denied access when consumers tried to log in. Bugs in the online marketplaces are no surprise. Recently, technology experts found a bug that creates an error in determining whether a customer is eligible for subsidies.
Insurers are concerned that the technical glitches could turn off customers.
Obamacare still a mystery to most Americans
The Affordable Care Act is still a mystery to most Americans, especially to the low-income group who are expected to benefit the most. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, more than 75 percent of people who lack health insurance are not familiar with Obamacare, or the health insurance exchanges. That raises a big question: whether or not the government will be able to achieve its goal of seven million enrollments by 2014.
The health insurance exchanges are aimed at providing a broad range of options and benefits to customers. It will also include benefits that were not parts of individual insurance policies, such as preventive care, birth control and mental health services. Obamacare will also ban discrimination on the basis of health history or gender. It mandates health insurance for all Americans. People who are not covered will have to pay $95 per person or 1 percent of annual household income as a fine.