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With 7 million people expected to enroll through a computer system debuting Tuesday, there could be some technical problems.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
A key part of the Affordable Care Act is set to go live on Tuesday, with the possibility of some glitches and bumps along the way.
In all 50 states, people with low to moderate incomes will be able to shop online for affordable health insurance.
Assuming the program works as planned, they will log on to what are being called marketplaces, which will be run by either their own state or the federal government.
In Virginia, which has defaulted to the federal model, consumers can go to healthcare.gov to enroll.
There, they will see a variety of plans offered by private insurance companies. Federal subsidies will offset the cost of insurance for people who make up to four times the federal poverty guideline — one of the keystones of President Barack Obama’s signature plan to make health care accessible for everyone.
But with an estimated 7 million people expected to enroll in the plans by 2015, and with a new computer “data hub” debuting on Tuesday to confirm their eligibility, there could be some technical problems.
“Even it we do everything perfectly, there will be some glitches and bumps,” Obama said at an April news conference. “That’s pretty much true of every government program that’s ever been set up.”
As late as Thursday, government officials were backing off some parts of the launch. Implementation of a marketplace for small businesses to buy insurance for their employees was delayed until Nov. 1.
“We just wanted to make sure that we got it right,” Gary Cohen , deputy administrator with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during a webcast last week. “With any big IT project, there are always going to be things you can improve on and make better.”
In July, the government announced a one-year delay in a provision of the law that will require employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide insurance for them or pay a fine.
With that requirement not taking effect until Jan. 1, 2015, critics said it’s unfair to move forward on mandates for individuals.
“Small-business owners should not be forced to comply with a law that is clearly not ready for prime time,” Kevin Kuhlman , manager of legislative affairs for the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a written statement last week.
Supporters of the law point out that consumers will have until Dec. 15 to shop for plans that take effect the first of next year — enough time for the government to work out any kinks that might come up. And enrollment for the rest of 2014 will continue through March.
“Enrollment is a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” said Ethan Rome , executive director of Health Care for America Now, a grass-roots coalition that supports the federal health care law.
In Virginia, where an estimated 624,000 people will be eligible for subsidized insurance sold on the marketplace, details of how much the plans will cost are beginning to emerge.
Consumers will be able to choose from an average of 47 health plans at three levels: gold, silver and bronze.
The average premium for a low-cost silver plan will be $323 a month before the subsidies are taken into account, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Subsidies will be calculated on a sliding scale based on income, with the greatest discounts going to the poorest enrollees.
On average, a 27-year-old making $25,000 a year would pay $145 for the second-least expensive silver plan. The cost for a family of four with a $50,000 annual income would be $282 for the same type of plan.
However, there will be variations in cost depending on where someone lives, the type of plan they pick and whether they smoke — a factor that will increase rates substantially.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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