Health Insurance Marketplace 1

Interface of Healthcare.gov.

The Health Insurance Marketplace has arrived, sort of.

While Americans cannot purchase their own health coverage under the Affordable Care Act until Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated its Healthcare.gov website Monday to prepare the nearly 7 million people expected to buy insurance in 2014 from the Marketplace, also known as the exchange. The site is consumer-driven, with tools provided to educate Americans on how to find health plans tailored to their personal needs. These include:

  • a short Q&A for users that quickly finds cost-effective health coverage options;
  • a 24-hour-a-day call center with translations in more than 150 languages, at 1-800-318-2596 — or 1-855-899-4325 for hearing impaired callers — to assist users in the application process;
  • CuidadoDeSalud.gov, a Spanish version of the site;
  • customized information for targeted groups, including small businesses, individuals and families; and
  • an accessible format for desktops, smartphones and mobile devices, along with a downloadable app.

Additionally, Americans can use Healthcare.gov to apply for Medicaid.

“The new website and toll-free number have a simple mission: to make sure every American who needs health coverage has the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves and their families, or their businesses,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a webinar yesterday to announce the new tools.

While exchanges will be implemented on a state-by-state basis, all Americans can use Healthcare.gov to enroll in coverage. A drop-down menu on the site allows users to select their state of residence, which then links to the website where they can apply.

The site also includes a page devoted to prevention, which helps users understand their preventive care benefits — such as flu shots and screenings —and search, compare and assess care facilities.

Healthcare.gov launched on July 1, 2010, shortly after the passing of the ACA. The law requires most Americans to obtain health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014, or pay a penalty.

Visit APHA online for information and resources related to the ACA.