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Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 12:50 pm

State-run health insurance exchange launches Oct. 1

Pillar of health reform uses free market to cover uninsured

Starting next month, people in Illinois and around the nation will have a new option for purchasing health insurance.

On Oct. 1, Illinois and several other states will operate state-run insurance “exchanges,” allowing individuals to purchase private insurance plans that have been vetted by state regulators. The exchanges are meant to provide health insurance options for people who don’t qualify for Medicaid and who don’t receive insurance through their employment. It’s a pillar of the federal health insurance reforms known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, or simply “Obamacare.”

On Monday, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, 2833 South Grand Avenue East, hosted several local organizations to discuss training for health workers who will act as guides to consumers seeking health insurance options. After completing federal and state training, workers from the Department of Public Health, Central Counties Health Center, SIU School of Medicine, the Springfield Urban League, St. John’s Hospital and others will be certified to assist consumers in choosing a health insurance plan from the exchange.

The exchange allows consumers to compare health insurance plans offered by private companies. State regulators ensure that each plan in the exchange meets certain standards of coverage.

Anyone who already has health insurance through work doesn’t need to do anything. People who qualify for Medicaid will be directed to enroll in that program, and almost everyone else will be directed to purchase health insurance from the state-run exchange. Jim Stone, executive director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, said an estimated 23,000 people in Sangamon County are uninsured and could utilize either the state health insurance exchange or Medicaid.

With certain exceptions, anyone who doesn’t have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014, will face a federal tax that changes depending on income and household size. The enrollment period runs from Oct. 1 to March 30. Plans purchased by Dec. 15, 2013, will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday announced Illinois’ premium rates for the insurance exchange will be 25 percent below what the federal government predicted for Illinois. The rates, which are still awaiting approval from the federal government, vary based on age, household size, geographic location and type of plan.

Quinn’s office said the monthly rate for the lowest-cost plan for a 25-year-old is $120 in Chicago or $128 in Peoria. The same plan would cost a 40-year-old $152 in Chicago and $163 in Peoria, while a 60-year-old would pay $323 in Chicago or $346 in Peoria. Low-income individuals and families may also qualify for subsidies that lower their costs.

For information on enrolling in the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, see below.

Where to seek guidance on health insurance
Central Counties Health Center - 788-2300 • www.centralcounties.org
Family Guidance Center - 544-9858 • www.trianglecenter.org
Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois - 525-1064 • www.mhcci.org
Sangamon County Department of Public Health - 535-3065 • www.scdph.org
Sangamon County Medical Society - 546-2512 • www.scmsdocs.org
SIU School of Medicine - 545-8000 • www.siumed.edu
Springfield Urban League - 753-3838 • www.springfieldul.org
St. John’s Hospital - 544-6464 • www.st-johns.org
Illinois Stewardship Alliance - 528-1563 • www.ilstewards.org

Additional resources:

Federal Health Care Reform - www.healthcare.gov
Illinois Health Care Reform - www.healthcarereform.illinois.gov
Kaiser Family Foundation Health Reform - www.kff.org/health-reform

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