Tips on how to navigate this region’s health insurance exchanges

    If figuring out how to navigate the new health insurance exchanges has your head spinning, know this:  You have lots of company.  The Pulse tries to help.

    If figuring out how to navigate the new health insurance marketplaces has your head spinning, know this:  You have lots of company. 

    Unfortunately, no one has yet found the magic path to slice through all the confusion.  But here a few bits of useful information that might help you:

     Each state has designated “navigators” and application counselors tasked with meeting with people one-on-one to help with enrollment. A federal website provides lists of where to find them, by ZIP code. Local community health centers also have resources, and in Philadelphia, libraries and other public agencies are offering information. Another option, though not free, is going to a broker or agent.

    The federal website offers live chats to help troubleshoot issues and walk peopel through the enrollment. There are also people on hand to help, via a 1-800 help-line.

    The cost of coverage will vary based on where a person lives and how much money they earn. Age and smoking may also be factors. Several organizations have developed tools to help people figure out the cost of coverage and whether they qualify for federal aid to buy a plan.  A person making between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible. Others, earning a bit more, may be able to get help with deductibles and copayments on certain plans.

    Details. Details. Details….Actual plan details can now be found on the federal marketplace website, without having to create an account. That two-step process was one of the flaws in the original site that cause howls. Now the site offers benefits summaries and costs. Insurance company websites may also provide more specifics. In Philadelphia, for example, Independence Blue Cross and Aetna are the two insurers offering plans through the exchange. According to a spokesperson from Aetna, the physician network is the same for all plan levels in Philadelphia. One can search for a provider here.

    Earlier in the year, the Pulse team and tried to provided some useful information to common questions about the ACA in a series called The Short Answer.

    Disclosure:  Independence Blue Cross is a sponsoring underwriter of the Pulse.

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