WASHINGTON (AP) — You can now open your own personal “Obamacare” account — but you’ll have to wait awhile before you can actually use it to pick a health insurance plan.
Just eight weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) administration officials announced Monday that the Affordable Care Act is a step closer to reality for millions of uninsured Americans.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said consumers can now go online to healthcare.gov and create personal accounts by establishing a username and password.
However, serious shopping will have to wait until sometime in September, when details on insurance plans and premiums offered in local areas will become available through the new online marketplace.
While Monday’s announcement may sound like partial progress only, Sebelius quickly moved to put the law’s doubters on notice. “Let me be clear,” she said. “We are on target and ready to flip the switch on Oct. 1.”
The congressional Government Accountability Office and Treasury’s inspector general for the Internal Revenue Service have been among the nonpartisan oversight organizations warning of possible delays with the rollout of the law.
The new personal account feature unveiled Monday will be available just in English for the time being. HHS said personal accounts will be coming soon to the Spanish-language marketplace, at cuidadodesalud.gov.
“Every step of the way there has been a delay in the Spanish language information, but they have gotten there,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, health policy director for the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights group. Hispanics are seen as a key constituency for the law’s success. Although they are more likely to be uninsured, they are a young population whose premiums could help subsidize older adults.
But the government’s Spanish name for its health care website — cuidadodesalud.gov — doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. “It kind of sounds like ‘caution – health care,’” Ng’andu said.