The federal government isn’t quite open for business today, but the health exchanges – the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 – have officially launched today. (The exchanges are not affected by the shutdown that began at midnight because they are already funded.)
The Obama administration expects millions of consumers to apply for private insurance coverage. The first open enrollment period is six months – beginning in October and going through March 2014. And most Americans will be required to have health insurance, or pay a fine, starting in January.
So how do these insurance exchanges work and who should use them? There is, of course, much confusion. The rollout will, no doubt, come with some glitches. But if all (or most) goes according to plan, consumers who don’t have insurance or who buy it on their own will be able to shop for coverage online, and get subsidies depending on their income. Currently, 14 states have their own online exchanges, while the rest run in whole or part by the government.
Whether you’re generally confused about what the law does or you’re unclear how your medical history will impact your eligibility for getting insurance, post your questions in our live chat above, and our experts will do their best to help.