Illinois Healthcare Exchange Raises Questions

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By Sam Jones
By Ben Jeffords

WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- The centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act takes effect October 1, when a new health insurance marketplace goes live. In the meantime, there's a lot of confusion about the new resource and implications of the Affordable Care Act.

The governor's office announced up to 34 plans will be available in Illinois. They'll be divided into four categories based on cost: bronze for the lowest, silver, gold, and platinum for the highest.

The Kaiser Foundation estimates less than half of all Americans understand how the law will impact them. Tonia Samuels is one of them.

"It's frustrating because we need answers and we need them now before it hits us all of a sudden," Samuels said.

Samuels and her coworkers are concerned work hours may be cut so their employer won't have to provide insurance benefits.

Details are slowly emerging about the coverage. Rates in southern Illinois will be higher than the rest of the state, in part, because there's less competition between healthcare providers here.

Obamacare does not replace private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
The marketplace will serve the estimated 1.8 million people in Illinois who don't have health insurance. There are subsidies for some, depending on household income.

Jane Kidwell has worked for three and a half years to understand how the plan will impact the city of Marion.

'We are okay, not worried about us," Kidwell said.

The city won't change its coverage from Blue Cross, Blue Shield.
There's an added expense of $38,000 in fees to help fund the new law.

Those looking for coverage to begin at the start of 2014, must sign up by December 15th. There are surcharges in costs for anyone over or under weight, and smokers can pay up to 50 percent more than non-smokers for the same plan.
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