September 23rd, 2013
Over the past week or so, I asked friends and family what they knew about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and if they had heard of the insurance exchanges or knew what they were designed to do. Everyone knew the ACA was, in fact, law (more than four in ten Americans remain unsure), but very few knew what an insurance exchange entailed.
Starting in January 2014, the ACA requires most individuals to have health insurance. The insurance exchanges—or marketplaces—are the platforms through which many will purchase their new insurance coverage. States have three options for creating these exchanges. They can a) create their own—which is what 17 states and D.C. have opted to do; b) create an exchange in conjunction with the federal government; or c) opt-out entirely and have the government run an exchange for them.
Through the exchanges, individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase qualified health insurance plans. These plans should, in theory, be more comprehensive than existing plans because they will need to meet the ACA’s new essential health benefits requirements, which mandate that the plans include things like emergency services, preventative care, pediatric services, and wellness programs. They also should, in theory, be more affordable as the increased plan competition will drive costs down.
Unfortunately, despite the October 1 start date, and recently ramped up efforts by the government and states to inform consumers, few people have any idea about the exchanges. Furthermore, those who have heard about them don’t trust the sources they are hearing it from. For example, 81% say they’ve heard about the ACA from media sources, but many don’t trust the information they’ve received.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially as we enter open enrollment in October. Not only should we wonder if states and the government will be ready in time for consumers to use the exchanges, but also, will consumers even know about them? And if they do, will the trust the information they’ve received enough to take action? Only time will tell.
[photo credit: Exchange Decisions By State http://obamacarefacts.com/state-health-insurance-exchange.php]