While it's a little too soon to begin shopping for affordable health insurance through the new state marketplaces that open nationwide Oct. 1, you can now take the first step by setting up your personal online account in most states.
'Ready to flip the switch'
With just eight weeks to go before consumers will finally meet health care reform face to face during open enrollment, the administration has announced that consumers in the 34 states with federally operated marketplaces can now log onto HealthCare.gov and create their own Obamacare account. The District of Columbia and the 16 states that elected to run their own marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act are dusting off their virtual welcome mats as well.
While online enrollment is available only in English so far, officials say a Spanish-language version will appear soon on the Spanish marketplace, CuidadoDeSalud.gov
"We are on target and ready to flip the switch on Oct. 1," Health and Human Services, or HHS, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters.
Setting up your Obamacare profile
Once you log onto HealthCare.gov, you'll be presented a short list of questions.
- Are you looking for coverage for yourself and family or for a small business?
- What's your gender, state of residence and age?
- Do you currently have health coverage, and if so, is it through your employer?
- Do you want situational information (i.e., minor dependent, disability, pregnancy, veteran, Native American or Native Alaskan)?
- Do you want information on pre-existing conditions, which are covered beginning in 2014?
- How many people will be on your federal income tax return?
- Will your household income for 2013 be above or below a certain figure?
You'll then be able to create an account by entering your name and email address, then selecting a username, password and three security questions. You'll receive an immediate verification notice by email. Once you click the link and log in for the first time, you'll be given an option to nudge your friends and family to enroll as well.
Small businesses can get answers
HHS also launched a new small-business call center at (800) 706-7893 to help small businesses find affordable health coverage for their employees under the law.
Actual health plan rates and coverage details are expected to follow in early September as HHS contracts with health insurers who have applied to sell their federally qualified plans on the state marketplaces.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.