Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

September 30, 2013

Indiana prepares to roll out online health exchange program

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — More than 500,000 Indiana residents without health insurance will be able to start buying it Tuesday under the Affordable Care Act, but while some are likely to decipher the federal website on their own with a few computer clicks, others will need so-called “navigators” to guide them toward the right plan.

Although the law that defined President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda remains a source of partisan gridlock in Washington, this week marks the rollout of the exchanges where uninsured residents can shop for coverage that most will soon be required to carry.

Indiana was one of 36 states that opted not to run their own exchange, or online marketplace, deferring to the federal government to create it for them. The 34 health plans that will be sold on Indiana’s exchange range from less than $100 a month for bare-bones coverage for an individual to close to $1,000 a month for a family of four.

The open enrollment period for buying insurance through the website (www.healthcare.gov) will run from Tuesday through March 31. Coverage will begin Jan. 1.

But figuring out the system won’t be easy for everyone. That’s where people like Marla Asberry come in. As lead outreach and health specialist for Open Door Health Services, Asberry is a public insurance broker, or navigator, trained by the state and federal government to help residents choose the right plans.

“It’s anybody’s guess how that first day is going to roll out,” she said.

Asberry and other navigators she works with have already been getting questions about the exchange and are prepared for many more this week. They have spent the past few months completing federal and state training, from learning state insurance rules to helping residents avoid fraud that could crop up with the opening of the exchange.

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