It’s been two weeks since the health insurance marketplaces — the way to shop for insurance from the Affordable Care Act — went live Oct. 1, and health care companies are mostly just waiting.
The federal website healthcare.gov, which is running the marketplace for many states including North Dakota, has been criticized for technical glitches and bugs since its debut.
There are three companies providing health insurance plans for North Dakota residents — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medica and Sanford Health Plan.
As of now, Blue Cross Blue Shield has only received a couple of enrollments from the marketplace, said J.D. Nichol, the manager of consumer sales.
Greg Bury, a spokesman for Medica, said his company hasn’t received any.
They are not worried, however, Bury said. It’s only been a short time and the delays are not yet concerning. There is still enough time for people to be enrolled, he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Emily Bormann, a spokeswoman for Sanford Health. The Sanford Health Plan has not yet received any enrollments from North Dakota, she said, but it’s still early.
Nichol said he has been advising consumers to wait until Nov. 1 to try enrolling through healthcare.gov. Hopefully by that time, the technical issues will be worked out, he said.
Individuals who qualify for insurance through the marketplace — mainly those who are not offered insurance through their employer and who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare — have until Dec. 15 to enroll in order to have insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014.
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After that, the open enrollment period extends through March 2014. If a person enrolls by the 15th of the month, coverage will begin the first of the next month. If a person enrolls after the 15th, the coverage will begin the month after next.
Anyone who does not have health insurance by 2014 will face a tax penalty of $95 per adult for the first year or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher, with a maximum of $285. The penalties go up exponentially the next two years and by 2016 and after, the penalty will be $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of income, with a maximum of $2,085.
By enrolling through the marketplace, people are eligible for federal tax subisidies to help pay for insurance. Those with income between 138 and 400 percent above the federal poverty guidelines are eligible.
Those at 138 percent of the poverty guidelines or below qualify for Medicaid, which the North Dakota Legislature voted to expand during its 2013 session.
The 2013 federal poverty line for an individual is $11,490 yearly income. It is $15,510 for a couple and $23,550 for a family of four.
The intricacies of what the healthcare reform law will mean for individuals and families is still not well-understood by some, as evidenced by the 40 people at a forum Tuesday morning hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The company also hosted one in the afternoon.
Many had questions regarding their personal situations and what their subisidies might look like.
Until healthcare.gov is fully debugged, however, it’s hard for consumers to find out that information and, ultimately, enroll online.
There is a national hotline that also can help people enroll, 800-318-2596.