Healthcare First: Launching the Health Insurance Marketplace

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CLEVELAND--On Tuesday, October 1, open enrollment begins in the new health insurance marketplace, commonly referred to as an exchange.

The exchange is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which provides healthcare options for the estimated 13% of 400,000 residents who are uninsured in the city of Cleveland.

“Being as I have my own health insurance, I didn’t really worry about what it was gonna do to me,” said Linda Grunder, who has insurance provided through her employer. But her daughter, Robin McLaughlin, has a pre-existing condition and plans to apply for coverage in the marketplace.

“They can’t use that against me anymore and I’ll pay a flat rate like anyone else,” said Robin.

On Monday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson encouraged people to learn more about the process as the process gets under way.

In Ohio, the marketplace is operated by the federal government and it’s a place to shop for coverage or get it for free if you qualify.

“Access to healthcare is one of the most important public policy points today,” said Mayor Jackson.

Kathleen Falk, the regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services attended the mayor’s information session on ACA open enrollment. “For the first time in our history, through the marketplace, consumers in every state will be able to go online to one place to check out their coverage options,” said Falk.

According to Healthcare.org, the government website that offers information on the ACA, “the health care law offers new rights and protections that make coverage fairer and easier to understand. Some rights and protections apply to plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace or other individual insurance, some apply to job-based plans, and some apply to all health coverage. These rights and protections provide even more choice and control over your health coverage when key parts of the law take effect in 2014.”

Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman is encouraging everyone to learn more about their options. “What we are talking about today has everything to do with why the city of Cleveland and other cities will be able to say to their residents in five years, you’re living longer because you're getting the care that you need.”

While supporters say the ACA offers low-cost options to those who need coverage, some lawmakers in Washington dispute that claim. There is an effort by some to find a way to defund the program.

“The small businesses is what’s kinda like taking a hit from it, from what I understand,” said Vincent Brown from Cleveland.

Falk, who oversees this region for HHS, said it’s her job to oversee the implementation.  “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act three years ago and the president signed it into law, then the Supreme Court spoke last year, so it is the law of the land! We need to implement what the law is.”

If you are insured through work or have Medicaid or Medicare, you do not need to do anything in the marketplace.

For everyone else, open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014.

“As the protector of the public’s health, we will continue to provide information to our consumers in terms of how to enroll, what the steps are and to provide assistance in doing so,” said Karen Butler, the director of public health in Cleveland.

The city is working with community partners to inform people in various neighborhoods or the public can visit any local library for assistance.

Click here for more on the ‘Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace.'

Click here  for more information on ‘Affordable Care Act' information sessions at the Cleveland Public Library.