Hoosiers can now shop on Obamacare marketplace

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The health insurance marketplace created by the controversial Affordable Care Act officially opened for business Tuesday.

Hoosiers who do not receive health insurance benefits through their employer, as well as people who would normally qualify for Medicaid or the Healthy Indiana program, could be eligible for the tax-subsidized programs, according to J Hopkins of ClaimAid Consulting, a health care consultancy.

Hopkins has been officially trained and licensed by the state of Indiana as a Navigator, a person who helps people understand and make decisions about their public and commercial health insurance options.

Tuesday’s start will likely be filled with confusion, he said.

“The federal government is running this thing and the state is doing its best to comply, so I would just ask for individuals to give it a little bit of time,” Hopkins said, referencing Indiana’s choice to join 26 other states in allowing the federal government to run its health care exchange.

Open enrollment lasts until the end of March 2014, but if a person wants their new health insurance coverage to kick in on Jan. 1, he or she would need to complete the registration by Dec. 15.

Enrolling after the end of March would require a significant life-changing event, Hopkins said, like the loss of coverage you currently have.  While all Hoosiers can enroll on HealthCare.gov, he said the state and federal health care websites are not initially communicating with each other.  That means Medicaid applications would have to be filled out separately.

“For most people, the opening of the marketplace won’t make much of a difference,” he said.  “Most people get their insurance through their employer.  Those who don’t have access to insurance through their employer, or have access to a state-funded program like Medicaid, will be able to go on and purchase a federally subsidized commercial insurance plan.”

Hoosiers can locate a Navigator to help them by looking at the Indiana Department of Insurance website.  Hopkins noted that Navigators are permitted by law to charge for their services, so it is important for people to ask about any potential fees up front.

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