Most of us have heard about the coming of Exchanges as we progress into 2013. These have also been called online marketplaces or just marketplaces and are being termed as the healthcare solution all of us have been praying for, for many years. Please don't confuse these Exchanges with stock Exchange or the FOREX since the health care Exchanges are essentially online marketplaces that will help us buy health insurance in a subsidized, informed and easier manner. These Exchanges will be seen in the month of October 2013 onwards where during the initial phase, coverage will be provided to the underprivileged and the traditionally uninsured sections of the population. These Exchanges are being created as a part of the Affordable Care Act or the Obamacare and enrollment will begin on a much larger scale as we move into 2014.
It should be noted that in 2014, all the legal citizens of the U.S. should have some form of insurance or risk facing heavy financial penalties in the form of additional taxation. This is called the individual mandate and according to this, all Americans should have some kind of basic or minimum health insurance. However, this doesn't mean that you have to buy insurance from the health Exchange only. You can buy it outside the state-run health Exchanges, from the private online marketplace.
There is another interesting development happening where the open insurance marketplace is also taking the shape of an Exchange. These are essentially portals run by private insurers that are deemed to have the look and feel of a state or federal Exchanges. These will be called private Exchanges and will function in a rather similar manner, offering a host of automated functions like an insurance quote engine or faster submissions and processing of Medicare application.
Many of the industry experts have compared the state Exchanges to travel websites such as Expedia. This is not too bad a comparison since the online marketplaces will function as a search engine helping consumers compare, choose and buy health insurance in the easiest possible manner. This is akin to shopping for travel or ticket deals with the assurance of being guided along the way.
Guidance will be available both across the state Exchanges and private health Exchanges. In the public marketplace domain, guidance will come from navigators and assisters who will shoulder the responsibility of informing the usually uninsured sections of the society about the criticality of having health insurance. These authorities will also provide answers to common questions about Medicare eligibility enrollment from seniors or employee benefit management from the smaller employers.
Across the private health Exchanges, guidance will come in many ways, including live chat sessions, call centers, toll free numbers and most importantly, brokers and agents who will be connected to the private Exchange marketplace via highly advanced healthcare software systems. Brokers will be playing a dual role of keeping the consumers informed about the advantages of different health insurance plans and guiding them about the purchasing process on the private Exchange.
By Kristen Chawla