Understanding Obamacare/Affordable Care Act: What are the "exchanges" or the "marketplace"

CLEVELAND - In our continuing coverage called "Understanding Obamacare," we are getting more insight into what the "exchanges" are.  The marketplace or exchange is the place where you will buy your health insurance, but there's so much more to it than that.

Some states have set up their own exchanges but not Ohio. The Buckeye State opted out and is allowing the federal government to handle Ohioans.

The exchanges are a place for people to compare and buy insurance plans and you definitely have options for doing just that.

This past week we followed Bethena Glenn, Desera Maxwell, and Clare Roche who are in the same boat looking for answers about buying health insurance through the exchanges.

"Some more information would be great for anybody … knowledge is key," Roche told us.

Starting Oct. 1, you'll be able to access the exchanges over the telephone toll free at 1 -800-318-2596 or teletype at 855-889-4325.

There are physical locations here in Cleveland including Care Alliance Health Center, Carmella Rose Health Foundation, Asian Services in Action, Cuyahoga Health Access Partnership, The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, and Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Clinics.

And newsnet5.com will have a link where you can go online for the exchanges.

"They're going to give you a display of the available insurance products that are being offered on the market," explained Cleveland State University Assistant Professor of Law Gwendolyn Roberts Majette. "It's kind of like the Travelocity for health insurance. So, you will see the product. You'll see the price. It will also determine whether you are eligible for any type of subsidies," she added.

Professor Majette went on to say you'll also be able to figure out if you're eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance program based on your financial status.

If you are eligible to buy insurance through the exchange, you'll see various levels of plans including Catastrophic, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum where you can compare how much the premiums will cost and how much out-of-pocket expenses would be as you visit a doctor or get medicine.

The Director of Strategy for Medical Mutual of Ohio Gregory Young told us the system is designed to make sure you get the information you need.

"They're going to make it as available as they possibly can," said Young. "Again, what's the goal? Maximize enrollment."

If you do need additional help or want to talk to someone prior to looking at your options through the exchange, the government has trained and certified people to guide you along the way.  They will be ready to answer questions and they're out and about in the community to help.

"The Navigators …  their goal is to provide consumer assistance, to actually go out and find people and let them know they're eligible, to also just educate people to know about the process itself," explained Majette.

Some of that assistance can be found at the same places where you can access the exchanges.

It's all help that Glenn, Maxwell, and Roche said they appreciate because they feel they're in the same boat as well when it comes to available facts on Obamacare.

"I don't think it's very well explained to the general population," Glenn told us.

And remember, if you want your insurance to kick in by Jan. 1, you have to sign up between Oct . 1 and Dec. 15.  However, the deadline to sign up for insurance is March 31, 2014.

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