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Question: When are the new Obamacare state health marketplaces open for business?
That's right: Despite the partial government shutdown, it's still supposed to be opening day for the Obamacare exchanges, though messages to "Please wait" and stating that "The system is down" were common in the early going on the federal HealthCare.gov website, where most of the marketplaces reside. The website for New York's state-operated exchange also has been replete with error messages.
As unlikely as it seems in an era when news of a Twitter feud between Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel is on everyone's lips before the men's thumbs have ceased tweeting, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll on Saturday found that 3 out of 4 uninsured Americans had no idea when they could begin to shop on the affordable health insurance exchanges.
And it's not just the uninsured who are uninformed; KFF found that 2 out of 3 of all respondents couldn't name the date, either.
Sometimes writing on this subject, I feel a lot like that camel on the Geico commercial who wanders from office cubicle to office cubicle, asking everybody, "What day is it?"
"Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike!" (as the camel calls to one of the cubicle dwellers): For Obamacare, TODAY is over-the-hump day. The marketplaces are online. Open for business. Go look for yourself -- especially if you're among the 1 in 2 KFF respondents who say they don't know enough about how Obamacare will affect their families or how much individual coverage will cost.
In Bankrate's recent Health Insurance Pulse survey, 15 percent said that what they'd most like to know about Obamacare is, "What is Obamacare;" 20 percent said they were most interested in finding whether Obamacare is really going to happen; 24 percent wanted most to know how it will affect their household budget; and 28 percent were most curious about the impact on their current health coverage.
Well, go on -- you can now take a peek at Obamacare. It's free. No obligation. If you don't know the name of your state's marketplace, just check Bankrate's map or go to HealthCare.gov.
A hunger for more information
More than half (56 percent) of Americans polled by Kaiser on Saturday said that news coverage had focused more on the politics and controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's historic health care reform than on practical information they can use. Little wonder they're in the dark -- or that 43 percent of those polled still hold a negative view of Obamacare, versus 39 percent who look on health reform in a favorable light.
Yes, it's been confusing. It's a big change, and the bigger the change, the greater the opportunity for misinformation mongers to sow seeds of fear and doubt.
But no more. Now you can see and judge for yourself.
The state marketplaces are now open in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for early enrollment. If you're uninsured or don't have affordable coverage through your employer, you can log on to your state's exchange right now and purchase a health insurance policy that will begin on Jan. 1, 2014. Open enrollment for marketplace policies continues through next March.
The curtain's going up
Will the rancor and obfuscation finally cease with the opening of the marketplaces? Not likely.
But for now -- today -- you have an opportunity that has never existed before in these United States. You can shop for health insurance for yourself and your family online with true apples-to-apples comparisons of policies and prices. You'll also find out if you qualify for government help to make your coverage affordable. And you can't be turned down or charged more for coverage because of your health -- or because you're a woman.
Welcome to a new day for health care in America!
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.