(HealthDay News) — As of Oct. 1, consumers looking for health insurance will be able to turn to state-based health care exchanges, a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act intended to help the uninsured and small businesses find affordable coverage.
The exchanges, described as an electronic shopping mall for health insurance, are meant to help people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but struggle to pay for commercial health insurance, and people who live just above the federal poverty level. Depending on when they enroll, people who purchase insurance through exchanges may be covered as early as January 2014.
Individuals will be able to use the exchanges to compare health plans and prices and to see if they are eligible for federal tax subsidies. Each state will also have a Small Business Health Options Program to help small businesses find coverage for their employees. Experts predict there will be a bit of a learning curve while people figure out how to navigate the exchanges.
“It’s definitely going to take a while for people to get their heads around this and understand, ‘for me this path makes sense or for me this path does not make sense,'” Linda Rowings, chief compliance officer at United Benefit Advisors, an Indianapolis-based provider of employee benefits advisory services, told HealthDay.