'Obamacare' insurance marketplace to launch Oct. 1 - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

'Obamacare' insurance marketplace to launch Oct. 1

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Reports of its demise were clearly overstated but the place to buy into the Affordable Health Care Act does have a new name. Originally identified as a Health Care Exchange, the federal website now refers to the program as a marketplace.

"So one of the things that ... Trips us up at the beginning is that some people are calling it exchange other people call it marketplace, but it's all one place and it's a place where you can go and compare apples to apples different health insurance plans," said Dunkelberg.

Health care analyst Anne Dunkelberg is tracking the developments leading up to the October launches.

"The actual official premiums I think may become public in the next few weeks. They'll certainly will be public on October 1," said Dunkelberg.

Those details remain uncertain because an official list of insurance providers that will participate in the federal program has not yet been released.

"The companies are going to be competing for business in this new marketplace and we know there are some insurers in Texas that are trying really hard to try to be a company that can offer low out of pocket costs and premiums, so I think there are going to be a lot of choices," said Dunkelberg.

The goal is to help the working poor people living paycheck to paycheck who do not have enough money to buy insurance those eligible range from a family of four with incomes just above the poverty line to a family of four with income just under $90,000. It's not a give-away- premiums are to be based on ability to pay.

"So that's how they make sure you don't go over something that's affordable for you, but as you pointed out, that is not free, there is sort of a personal responsibility expectation there," said Dunkelberg.

According to the federal law, everyone must carry some form of health insurance or they will have to pay a tax. The annual penalty starts at $95 or 1 percent of income the fine increases to 2.5%( appox. $695) by 2016.

James Mobley, who is losing his health insurance because he has lost his job, understands the federal plan is controversial but he hopes it will work.

"I got to say give it a chance if it doesn't work then that's the way it is," said Mobley.

Local organizations like are peoples community clinic have been award grants to help people sign up. Staff members known as navigators are being hired and trained. Some will answer phone calls others will work out of locations like Highland Mall to provide face to face assistance.

It's estimated that the Health Care Act could provide insurance to about 2 million people in Texas but because state leaders have refused to expand Medicaid, Dunkelberg says another 2 million may be left out.

"We're essentially starting January in a world where one family that earns $21,000 a year is going to quality for really good help for their premiums in the new marketplace and another family that looks almost exactly like them but living on $18,000 a year which is right below the poverty line, for a family of three, they're not going to qualify for anything," said Dunkelberg.

The insurance coverage is set to start in January.

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