White House announces new resources to help consumers find insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration moved anew Monday to demonstrate its progress in implementing the president’s 2010 health care law, announcing new call centers and a new website to help consumers find insurance coverage next year.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who don’t get health benefits through their employer are supposed to be able to start shopping for health insurance on new Internet-based marketplaces in each state on Oct. 1 for coverage starting in January.

The health insurance plans available on these marketplaces, or exchanges, for the first time will have to offer a basic set of benefits and will not be able to turn away consumers even if they are sick.

Those making less than four times the federal poverty line — or about $46,000 for a single person — will qualify for federal subsidies to offset the cost of their premiums.

The new health law will require most Americans to get health coverage or pay a small fine next year — $95 for most people.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged Monday that millions of Americans are unaware of the 2010 law’s benefits and requirements.

“The most daunting aspect is that people still don’t know enough about what’s going to change in the law and don’t have enough information and still have some misinformation,” she said. “What’s really encouraging is that … once people are made aware of what’s coming, what’s going to be available, what sort of financial help there is, they are very enthusiastic about it.”

The new call centers, which Health and Human Services officials will ultimately staff with about 9,000 people, can now be accessed 24 hours a day at 1-800-318-2596.

The website — www.health care.gov — also allows consumers to find out how they will be able to get insurance in the fall, though the website will not provide consumers with any insurance options.

Health plans and their premiums will not be available to consumers in most states until September, though a few states have already posted this information on separate web sites that they operate.

Obama administration officials said they are still working with states and health insurance companies to finalize which plans will be available and how much they will cost.