The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the online marketplace for health insurance will open Oct. 1 for Texans, but with all the back and forth between opponents and supporters of the new health care law, there are still a lot of questions.
Marjorie McColl Petty, the HHS Region 6 director -- the area that includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma -- said right now people can go to www.healthcare.gov to get answers to common questions by entering some information about their household:
- How large is your family? What’s the health status of each off those family members? How much can you afford in monthly premium?
Petty said contrary to what Republicans like Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott are saying, the federal exchange is very secure when it comes to protecting people’s private information, which includes the ACA navigators who will help people that need assistance sign up for the plans.
"If they are going to a certified person with an ID number that has been trained, they in fact would have been trained with security information and how to manage in a secure fashion any information that might be shared," Petty said.
Petty said the State of Texas can create additional requirements for these navigators, but if their work is impeded by the state rules it will be considered a federal crime. There are currently federal rules in place for the navigators.
There are other concerns that the health exchange will not be able to handle the millions of Texans signing up online. Petty said all systems have glitches and the federal health exchange is not immune to being overloaded and temporarily shutdown.
"I think the important thing is for the public to be patient, to remember they have six months to enroll," Petty said, "There’s no urgency that it happen on a specific day. I would encourage people -- if there is a wait in applying in the state -- that they perhaps pick a time that is a little more unique, maybe later in the evening or early in the morning."
Petty said no one with preexisting conditions will be turned down and even those with existing insurance will be able to use the exchange to shop other providers. She said 93 percent of all Texans will qualify for some type of federal subsidy or tax credit.
"It gives you pretty much real-time response on what kind of a tax credit will be available now that credit does not go to the individual, it actually helps subsides what insurance product the individual chooses so that it makes their premium more affordable."
Texans will have until April 1, 2014, to enroll in some type of insurance.