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Illinois' New Health Care Marketplace Is Now Open

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 1, 2013 2:43PM

2013_10_1_getcoveredillinois.jpg One thing that came out of last night’s government shutdown is the Affordable Care Act is now in effect, mandating that most Americans have health insurance coverage or eventually pay fines. Every state in the union will have a marketplace where consumers will be able to shop for insurance and determine if they qualify for tax credits to defray expenses of having health insurance.

Illinois’ health insurance marketplace, or “exchange,” is called Get Covered Illinois and is now online. State officials charged with rolling out the program have a Herculean task ahead of them. A study by The Commonwealth Fund found that 76 percent of Americans were aware of the ACA’s individual mandate but only 40 percent are aware of the new marketplaces.

To raise awareness of Illinois’ marketplace, the state launched a $33 million marketing campaign in 50 markets across the state Tuesday promoting Get Covered Illinois. Kelly Sullivan, Chief Marketing Officer for Get Covered Illinois, said “October is the month for awareness of our name, and education about resources around the State as uninsured residents begin to shop. November is a pivot to a more robust activation and enrollment message.”

Nearly 1.8 million Illinoisans are uninsured and most of them have the opportunity to get coverage for the first time through the marketplace or an accompanying Medicaid expansion. Through Get Covered Illinois no county in the state will have fewer than 57 plans available for purchase. Premiums will vary by region, however and little is known regarding those, co-pays and deductibles.

But there’s time to register. Health insurance coverage begins Jan. 1 for people who register before Dec. 15 and people who miss that deadline may register until March to avoid penalties for 2014. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos said Monday people shouldn’t feel the need to rush into getting insured.

“This is complicated. There's a lot of choices, there's a lot to think about ... and that's OK," Hamos said.

The initial ads don’t include a phone number to call for more information, because officials don’t want an overloaded call center on the first day of the exchange. If you’re having problems accessing the marketplace online, call (866) 311-1119 for assistance. The call center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.