Posted: Sep 30, 2013 7:51 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Sep 30, 2013 9:00 AM
HELENA - In just a few days a key portion of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, will roll out, allowing Montana consumers to purchase health insurance on what is called an exchange.
Here's what people need to know as this big change takes place.
Starting October 1st, people will have a choice: they can either purchase health insurance like they always have, pay a penalty for not being insured, or they will be able to go to the exchange.
The exchange is an online marketplace where consumers can shop for health insurance policies. They get to compare products side by side.
The policies are categorized in tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. While the coverage for each policy within the tier will be the same, there are some differences.
CEO of Blue Cross-Blue Shield Montana Mike Frank said, "Obviously one of those is price, so check the price. The second is check the provider network. Make sure the hospital nearest you or the physician nearest you or the physician you've been using is in that network."
Essentially consumers need to ask themselves which policy gives them the coverage they need at a price they can afford?
Some people shopping on the exchange might not be able to afford health insurance. So if their income falls below 400 percent of the poverty level the federal government will step in and help them pay for their policy. The goal is get everyone covered.
Montana's Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen said, "If everyone is in the insurance pool to begin with and getting preventative care throughout, they will be healthier and will spread the risk when it comes to the cost of insurance."
Meaning, the costs should go down.
But that part has yet to be determined because no one really knows who will be shopping on the exchange.
Will they be healthy? Will they be high risk? All these things determine the future costs of healthcare.
"That's the exciting part starting October 1st. After two and a half years or three years of preparation, we are finally getting to see who your customer is going to be," Frank said.
And those customers have until December 15th to purchase a policy if they want coverage to start on January 1st.
So those in the business say take your time, get informed and make the decision that's best for you.