CHICAGO – Here are some fast facts about how buying health insurance will change in Illinois as President Barack Obama's health overhaul takes effect and the first insurance exchange starts operating later this year:
Q. How many people are uninsured in Illinois and how many of those are projected to get insurance under the exchange?
A. Nearly 1.8 million Illinois residents are uninsured. An estimated 486,000 Illinois residents will get coverage from commercial insurers through the exchange in 2014, growing to 1 million customers by 2016.
Q. How many people in Illinois are currently served by Medicaid and how many more will be served if Illinois chooses the Medicaid expansion?
A. Nearly 2.8 million Illinois residents are currently covered by Medicaid. Starting in 2014, an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 uninsured Illinois residents would be newly eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Pat Quinn supports.
Q. How many small businesses are likely to take advantage of the health insurance offered on the Illinois exchange?
A. There are about 209,000 small businesses with fewer than 50 employees in Illinois, and about a third of them offer health insurance to their workers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Illinois has not projected the number of small businesses likely to participate in the exchange but estimates 149,000 employees are likely to receive coverage through the exchange-offered plans, climbing to 443,000 in 2020.
Q. How is the exchange going to be set up in Illinois and which agency will be responsible for overseeing it?
A. Illinois plans to operate an exchange in partnership with the federal government for 2014, the first year, and residents would be able to comparison shop for insurance plans starting Oct. 1. The state has received $38.2 million through three separate federal grants to establish exchange-related activities.
The state Department of Insurance will oversee consumer assistance and plan management. It will train and certify people to help consumers who want to shop for insurance or enroll in Medicaid through the exchange. The state insurance department also will recommend to the federal government which commercial health insurance plans to make available through the exchange.
Q. How would Illinois residents access the exchange and what kind of customer support will be offered?
A. The federal government will operate an exchange website for online enrollment, a call center for telephone enrollment and customer support, and a so-called "Navigator" program offering in-person enrollment assistance. The state also will offer an In-Person Assistance program to supplement the federal Navigator program, focused on geographic and demographic populations not served by the federal program.
Q. How many people will the Illinois exchange employ?
A. The state estimates that a state-based exchange could employ up to 87 people in 2015. Later this year, state officials expect federal money will become available to hire people to provide consumer assistance throughout the state. It is unclear how many will be hired.