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Pre-enrollment in federal health care marketplace

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 |
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(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's almost time to enroll in the federal healthcare marketplace.

If you want to get insurance, or if you are already insured and simply want to shop around for better or cheaper coverage, enrollment begins October 1, and ends on March 31, of 2014.

However, there are some things you should be doing now to prepare.

Sometime before the open enrollment launch date of October 1, you should log on to Healthcare.gov--the federal website where you can shop for insurance benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

State Director of Enroll America Erin Knott says the first step is creating a profile of yourself.

"For the profile, it really is the basics," she explains. "Your name and your address--where you live."

Once you've logged on, all you do is click the "Get Insurance" tab at the top of the screen, and then a scroll-down menu will appear, and you'll choose "Michigan."

Because the federal government will be running the process for the state of Michigan, that's all you have to do to pre-enroll.

Then before you actually enroll, you'll need to apply for tax credits.

Gather basic information about your household income, so you'll know how many credits you qualify for. You'll need a W-2, current pay stub, or tax return to verify.

Those tax credits will discount the cost of your coverage, and they're available on a sliding scale for anyone just over the Medicaid threshold, all the way up to families of 4 making 400% of the federal poverty level--or about $95,000 per year.

"You can choose to receive that assistance up front to help pay for your premium, or you can take it at a later time in the form of a tax credit," Knott said.

Then it's time to pick a plan.

First, consider your budget: how much are you able to spend and how much coverage do you want?

There are four different levels of insurance--bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

Bronze has the lowest premiums, but offers the least coverage and highest deductibles.

For platinum insurance, you'll pay more, but you're covered 90 percent.

If you need help figuring out what's right for you, help is there in the form of what are called Healthcare Navigators.

"Navigators will be able to sit down with consumers and help them look at the plans and answer any questions they have," Knott said. "They will also be able to help them in the application process as well as the final enrollment process."

A $2.5 million federal grant allows the state of Michigan to hire and train local experts in every region, and there will be several assigned to southwest Michigan.

"These will be folks with boots on the ground throughout the state who will be available to assist residents with signing for health insurance on the marketplace--with questions they may have," said Caleb Buhs, with the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.

There's also a toll-free call center, open 24 hours a day. You can call the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.
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