Despite the first federal government shutdown in 17 years and a push by Republicans in the House of Representatives to delay further implementation of “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges opened for business today.
The new health exchanges offer one-stop shopping for health insurance coverage where eligible Americans can compare health plans and prices and choose coverage based on their needs. The exchanges will also help consumers determine whether they are eligible for public health coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
According to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, some seven million people are expected to enroll in private health coverage through the exchanges in 2014; another nine million will enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. How smoothly enrollment goes will vary by state. Officials in Colorado, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have announced computer system issues prior to the kick-off of open enrollment, which runs through March 31, 2014. People in Oregon can’t apply for coverage online for several weeks. Those who want to apply immediately must contact one of the exchange’s licensed agents or community partners.
Jesse Ellis O’Brien, a health care advocate with the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group Foundation, told HealthDay he “wouldn’t be surprised” if other states found their websites weren’t quite ready to go live, either. “I think the key thing is Oct. 1 is a starting point — it’s not a finish line,” he added.