Obamacare open enrollment to begin: What you need to know for Oct. 1

Published September 30, 2013
By Amanda Cochran, CBS News

(CBS News) Even with the government shutdown looming, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is set to begin on Tuesday.

So what do you need to know for the program’s open enrollment period?

If you have insurance already, CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger pointed out, the open enrollment will not affect you — so you can do nothing. “If you have insurance through your employer, if you’re on Medicare, if you’re on Medicaid, if your child is covered by CHIP, you’re on COBRA, relax, take a deep breath,” she said on “CBS This Morning.” “You don’t have to do anything. You are covered.”

Health Care in America

However, those that will be affected are uninsured legal U.S. citizens. They can begin shopping for health care coverage for coverage on Tuesday at HealthCare.gov.

The shopping experience, Schlesinger said, is like booking a flight on a travel Web site like Travelocity. She explained, “What you need to know is if you go to one of these marketplaces at HealthCare.gov, you’re going to be led to a question that says ‘where do you live?’ because each state has something different. When you get there, you’re going to see different types of coverage for each — say like covering 60 percent to 90 percent of your health care costs. You can choose it.

“You’re going to a place, you’re comparing costs, you’re choosing coverage,” she said. “That’s what you need to know.”

Here are the important dates to know as the health care roll-out begins:

October 1, 2013 – Open enrollment starts

January 1, 2014 – Health coverage starts

March 31, 2014 – Open enrollment ends

As for reported problems with the web site, Schlesinger said, “With any roll-out there are going to be glitches, but the concept should be easy. … From October 1 all the way through March 31, you have a chance to get coverage. Again, if you don’t have insurance. If you have insurance, you don’t have to do anything.”

If you do not get coverage in that time, penalties will go up over time. If you’re an individual the penalty is $95 a year or one percent of your income — whichever is greater. “That’s for next year,” Schlesinger noted. “The cost goes up in the next couple of years, so when we get to the year 2016, it’s $695 per person or 2.5 percent of your income. That’s a real incentive. Look, this plan has to get young healthy people in it or else the math does not work.”

As for the looming government shutdown, Schlesinger said the Affordable Care Act — as a funded program — is “open for business.”

For more with Schlesinger, watch her full interview above.

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