Covered California, our California health benefits Marketplace, formerly known as the ‘exchange,’ will be a place to go to purchase individual health plans, or small group health plans. What will be different from how you used to buy particularly individual plans?
Covered California is a web site, a phone number and staff you can call to get help picking out a plan. Well, isn’t that what you used to do when you called an agent, your agent, and said hey, I need a health insurance policy? We have phone numbers, web sites, and can help you figure out what would be a good fit for your situation.
A big reason to buy inside the exchange is if you are eligible for subsidies on your individual or family coverage. You will only get that if you buy in the Marketplace.
Insurance companies inside the Marketplace have to offer the same plans inside and outside the Marketplace. But they can offer other plans outside the exchange as well, we haven’t seen them yet though. Soon, I hope!
Another thing to take into consideration are physician and hospital networks—most of the plans inside the Marketplace have reduced networks, so if you have a doctor or hospital you definitely want to use, be sure to check if they are contracted for plans offered inside the Marketplace.
Independent agents will be able to sell Marketplace plans but only if they go through the Covered California certification process. So if your agent does this, you can continue to work with them and have all the options at your fingertips, or their fingertips. The agent community has tried to make positive suggestions in this process to keep it manageable.
Obamacare is a work in progress. There are things we aren’t thrilled about but change was definitely needed in the health care process. So, now that we have health insurance reform, it will be interesting to see what additional steps are in store in the coming years.