Ohio’s health exchange is “ready to go,” government says

Government officials Monday unveiled a new-look HealthCare.gov website, which will be the main portal for individuals and small businesses to sign up for health coverage on government-run health exchanges in states such as Ohio.

The revamped website provides a central clearinghouse of information about the online marketplace for health insurance created by the Affordable Care Act, including eligibility requirements, enrollment deadlines and guidelines for qualifying for tax credit subsidies to help cover premium costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

The website’s relaunch is part of President Barrack Obama’s educational outreach campaign, which includes the opening of 11 call centers around the country to provide 24-hour assistance in 150 different languages and a joint venture with the National Football League.

Open enrollment begins Oct. 1 with coverage beginning next year, but Ohio consumers can’t compare plans just yet.

The Ohio Department of Insurance has received plan filings from 14 companies who want to sell 214 different individual health plans on Ohio’s exchange and from seven insurers who want to offer 84 different plans to small businesses on the exchange.

But the insurance department has until July 31 to submit approved plans to the federal government to be included on the exchange in Ohio.

Ohio is one of 32 states that will either partner with the federal government or let the government alone run their exchange. Nineteen states have declared their own state-based exchange.

State and national legislators have raised concerns that the government-run exchanges will not be ready by fall.

Not so, said Gary Cohen, director for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which has been charged with helping implement many provisions of the ACA.

“Our work to set up the marketplaces is already well under way,” Cohen said. “Final rules have been issued, the single streamlined application is ready to go, our IT infrastructure is in place, and insurers’ plans are being reviewed. We will be ready to go on Oct. 1.”

The health exchanges are expected to attract about 7 million uninsured individuals nationwide in the first year, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, including a large percentage of the estimated 1.5 million uninsured Ohioans.

All plans sold on the exchanges must meet federal minimum benefits standards and cannot discriminate against enrollees based on gender or pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

The exchanges will have little impact on the approximately 62 percent of Ohioans who already have health coverage through an employer.