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Idaho's online health care insurance exchange opens

By Kaitlin Loukides
Published On: Oct 01 2013 12:57:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 01 2013 07:54:37 PM CDT

Today is the first day people can start shopping on the exchange.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

Tuesday is the first day Idahoans can jump onto the state's health care insurance website and start hunting for an insurance plan.

Despite the partial government shutdown looming over sectors of the nation, the state was able to meet its Oct. 1 deadline to allow Idahoans who do not yet have health insurance, to choose a plan before the January 1 deadline.

Here are some questions many of our viewers have been inquiring about.

What is the state-based exchange?

Think of the exchange as an online marketplace with numerous plans people can pick and choose from in order to determine what healthcare insurance plan is best suitable for them.

The website is: http://www.yourhealthidaho.org/ (This link will open-up in a new page.)

Do I qualify to purchase insurance on the exchange?

Chairman of the Health Insurance Exchange Board Stephen Weeg said if an individual is between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you have a range of options on the exchange you can choose from and some of your costs will be subsidized and paid for. 

For example, a minimum-wage worker making $15,000 a year will have his or her plan subsidized so their cost for comprehensive health coverage will be roughly between $25-30 each month. The insurance company will be paid partly by the individual and partly by an advanced tax credit paid by the federal government.

If an individual makes between $11,490 and $44,000, they will receive some form of help with their insurance premium. If a family of four earns between $23,000 and $92,000, they will also receive help with their premium costs.

"The affordability was impacted two ways," Weeg said. "First, the starting point cost of the insurance plans have come in lower than expected. Second, If you qualify for a subsidy, you need to look at how that subsidy will make that even more affordable for you, and in a nutshell, that is what the exchange is all about."

What if I am below the poverty level?

If a person is below 100 percent of the poverty level, they are not required to have health insurance because of the high cost. But, there are still a range of plans they can look at to see what would be most affordable and then look at the tax credit discount available to make sure the plan is even more affordable for them.

Some plans have a higher premium with a lower out-of-pocket cost and some plans have a lower premium with a higher out-of-pocket cost, so people who are hunting for a plan have plenty of options to choose from.

Great, but now how do I get started?

Weeg said they now have people called "connectors" who help you navigate through the website along with licensed insurance agents to help people understand insurance plans, and a call center people can use starting Tuesday.

Weeg also mentioned the website might be running fairly slow since it is overrun with large numbers of people logging on to start shopping for insurance.

What if I want to figure this out on my own but I'm still having trouble calculating premium costs according to my income?
You can visit Kaiser Family Foundation website, http://kff.org/, which has a calculator that will tailor to your exact financial standings. 

For more information, see our Health Care Reform section, http://www.localnews8.com/healthcare.

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