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Our View: Learn about changes in health care

Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The new marketplace opening in October will sell only one type of item – but it’s something that never has been presented in this manner before.

Oct. 1 is when open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, or the Exchange, starts in Illinois. It’s part of the federal Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, mandates all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine.

The Exchange is an online portal that will serve as a central location for residents and small businesses to compare and choose from dozens of insurance plans. Six providers have proposed 165 plans, and coverage kicks in Jan. 1. Each plan will be categorized in one of four “metal” levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum, with bronze the lowest and platinum the highest in terms of coverage, breadth of services and cost.

Some who utilize the Exchange will qualify for subsidies or be eligible for Medicaid. Those who already have insurance don’t have to shop the Exchange, but may want to check it out to see if they can save on insurance costs. State officials have said they initially expect about 500,000 residents to apply when the market opens Oct. 1, and expect it to increase to 1 million people by 2016.

In DeKalb County, for instance, the act will allow an estimated 6,288 residents, up to age 64 who are uninsured, to become eligible for Medicaid. An additional 5,208 uninsured residents will be eligible for a subsidy to help pay costs, according to a study posted on the website of Illinois Health Matters.

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, usually elicits strong reactions. Some love it. Some hate it. We have concerns about where the money will come from to pay for its many provisions and regulations, and the financial burden it will impose on taxpayers and businesses. We’re also not thrilled with the federal government getting involved so deeply in personal and business decisions.

But that isn’t stopping us – and it shouldn’t stop you – from learning all we can about the Exchange and the law, and what it could mean for our personal situations. The Daily Chronicle is setting out to do just that: Starting today and for the next six months, we plan to run an occasional series that aims to educate about the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act.

Some stories will focus on the Exchange, including how it could affect residents, businesses and health care systems. Others will focus on the numerous changes – such as the mandate to have insurance and eliminating annual limits on insurance coverage – that start Jan. 1. No matter the topic, all of the articles aim to educate our readers so they can make decisions that are best for them.

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