Q: I've heard that recently the Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS, along with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, kicked off the Health Insurance Marketplace education efforts with a new consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and a national call center. What will these resources help with, and can you explain a little more about the new Health Insurance Marketplace; I understand that it will be a new way to shop for affordable, quality health insurance?
A: Yes. In June, DHHS launched the Health Insurance Marketplace education effort with a new, consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and the 24-hours-a-day consumer call center to help Americans prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance. The new tools will help Americans understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1.
The launch of the educational tools is an important step in our efforts to start delivering on the promise of expanding access to quality, affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. These tools will help Americans learn about their new options now, so they can sign up for coverage that is appropriate when the time comes.
That time will be October 1st, when a new Health Insurance Marketplace will open in every state, giving Americans a whole new way to shop for health insurance.
For the first time in the history of the private insurance market, consumers will be able to go to one place to check out their coverage options, get accurate information in easy-to-understand language, and make apples-to-apples comparisons of plans before they make their decision.
All plans will cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including physician visits, preventive care, hospital stays, and prescriptions. Discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions will be banned. And many families and small businesses will qualify for a break on their monthly premiums.
And only by shopping at the Health Insurance Marketplace will Americans find out if they are able to get lower costs on their monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs–making more affordable coverage a new reality for many hard working Americans and their families.
First, we've launched the new and improved HealthCare.gov, which will be the Marketplace's online home starting in October. For Spanish speaking consumers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov has also been updated in preparation for the Marketplace.
We've also opened a consumer call center that will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-800-318-2596. Hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can dial 1-855-889-4325 for assistance.
This toll-free service will help answer questions, and starting in October it will provide personalized assistance for callers who are filling out their application or selecting a plan.
Whether consumers seek out help through the call center, through the website's live chat feature, or through trained professionals who will be working in their communities, they'll have access to support that is personal, unaffiliated with the insurance industry—and through the call center, help in about 150 languages.
These educational tools are just the latest steps we're taking to ensure that Americans can take advantage of improved health coverage options this fall.
Later this summer, we'll kick our enrollment efforts into high gear. We are distributing funds to community health centers and other organizations that have signed on to help consumers navigate the new Marketplace. And we'll be working closely with additional partners across the country to help American families and businesses get ready for the fall.
The promise of the Affordable Care Act is within our grasp, and this progress on launching educational tools about the upcoming Health Insurance Marketplace, which will soon be the new way to find and purchase quality, affordable health insurance is another important milestone on our road to October and better health insurance options for Americans who need them most.
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