Insurance marketplace website still tied up on second day
Got questions about the Affordable Care Act? In a regular feature, the WHYY/NewsWorks Health and Science Desk is providing "The Short Answer."
Enrollment for the new health insurance marketplaces began this week. How's it going?
The short answer
What do we know about those who did try to log in to Healthcare.gov?
Some of them are true shoppers with no health coverage; many of them are just curious.
It's worth noting that at least of some of "unexpected" traffic on the Healthcare.gov site came from "lookie loos" — reporters, policy people and pundits — who have insurance, but are intensely interested to gauge how the Obama administration's signature law is succeeding on the ground.
There is also a lot of pent-up demand for coverage. There are about 1 million uninsured people in New Jersey, another million without coverage in Pennsylvania, and 90,000 in Delaware.
At a Day One enrollment event at Spectrum Health Clinic in West Philadelphia, one of the first customers was a 28-year-old Philadelphia man with two part-time jobs and a wife in graduate school.
And a 37-year-old woman with asthma, high blood pressure and a history of heart disease was looking for a plan that will let her afford all of her prescription medicines.
Which companies offer plans through the marketplaces?
In Pennsylvania, Aetna and Independence Blue Cross are on the list. In New Jersey, Horizon, AmeriHealth and Health Republic Insurance will sell plans on the exchange. In Delaware, Highmark and Coventry plans will be available.
Is there someplace else to buy insurance — a company website, for instance?
People buying insurance on their own shop anywhere they want. But it's important to note that an estimated 80 percent of people who eventually buy through the Obamacare marketplaces will be eligible for a tax credits or subsidies.
There are a lot of online calculators to give shoppers an idea of whether they will qualify for financial assistance based on income and family size. But, if you qualify and are ready to buy coverage, Healthcare.gov is the only place to actually get access to that help.
Many health care advocates are urging shoppers to give the government time to smooth out the kinks in Healthcare.gov. It might really be worth it, financially, to wait and see.
Also — we can't say this enough — there's still time. Open enrollment continues for six months and people have until mid-December to make sure they have coverage on Jan. 1.
When I compare my insurance options, what do I need to shop smartly?
Know the names of the doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs that are important to you. On Healthcare.gov, you'll be able to see whether the health providers and hospitals where you want to get care are included in the network offered by each health plan.
Some experts say it's helpful to have last year's tax information or W-2 forms nearby. Here's a checklist of other information to have on hand.