CHICAGO (AP) — With less than three weeks left until a key launch date for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Illinois residents planning to shop for health insurance through the PPACA exchange system still don’t know which companies will offer plans or what the policies will cost.
The uncertainty is vexing business owners, the self-employed and others who want to create their budgets for 2014. Heightened speculation and political spin are also in the air as other states release their rates, with Republicans stressing increases compared to some current rates and Democrats crowing about subsidies many consumers will get.
Illinois residents likely won’t know more about policies and pricing until the Web-based marketplace opens Oct. 1, according to federal officials who addressed a group of health professionals and other stakeholders this week without explaining precisely why.
More than a dozen other states have released their prices, but Illinois officials are waiting for final word from the federal government. Washington is controlling most of the important aspects of the state’s marketplace because Illinois didn’t move fast enough to set up its own exchange.
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Under PPACA, many Americans will be required to have health insurance in 2014 or face fines, and insurers will be prohibited from turning away people because of poor health. The marketplaces, one for every state, are a key part of the law.
The coverage offered on the marketplaces, which are supposed to be one-stop sites for easy comparison shopping and enrollment, will start Jan. 1. About 700,000 Illinois residents will be eligible for aid in paying for marketplace-bought health insurance. Another 600,000 Illinois residents will be newly eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor.
Small business owners and individuals are frustrated with the lack of disclosure, according to Illinois insurance brokers who spoke to The Associated Press. Chicago insurance broker Sean Whaley said his self-employed clients are frustrated they can’t plan ahead for their families’ health care costs in 2014.
“The whole thing is ridiculous,” Whaley said. “They’re trying to plan their finances and nothing’s set in stone at all.”
Small business owners want to provide detailed price information to employees in federally required notifications about the marketplace, Pekin insurance broker William Shock said. Those notices will spur employees to raise questions that the employers can’t answer without enough information, he said.
“We can’t tell what the plans are going to look like and we don’t know what they’re going to cost,” Shock said. “Most employers like to be pretty decisive and pretty direct.”
Two recent independent studies of rates already filed by insurers in other states show there will be low-premium plans available, but those will be accompanied by high deductibles and copayments.
Under the health law, all plans on the new insurance marketplaces must offer the same coverage benefits, including free preventive care. All plans also will have a cap on total out-of-pocket costs: $6,350 for individuals, $12,700 for a family policy.