Officials at Your Health Idaho, the Gem State-managed health insurance marketplace which opened for business this morning, reported that by mid-morning, online applications were operating "slower than expected" due to increased volume.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," said Amy Dowd, executive director of the exchange.
While the online application is running slower, Idahoans are being asked to contact agents, brokers and in-person representatives to navigate the process.
Your Health Idaho's consumer resource center, located in West Boise, is taking calls at 1-855-YH-IDAHO (1-855-944-3246).
Yes, this is the day that the state-run health insurance exchange begins: the first tangible existence of the Affordable Care Act in Idaho and a day that more than a few Obamacare opponents have dreaded.
YourHealthIdaho.org will navigate Idaho citizens through the process of apples-to-apples comparison of various plans, before securing coverage, which will be mandatory on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Those that are not currently covered by an employer plan, a private plan or through Medicaid will need to purchase a plan that works for them. The penalty for not doing so will be about $95 per person or 1 percent of your taxable income, but that penalty quickly escalates in the coming years. For example, by 2016, the penalty will be $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of taxable income.
For those Idahoans not totally comfortable in online, licensed agents, brokers and so-called In-Person Assisters (or IPAs) can assist with securing a qualified health plan. (Consumers will be prompted to enter their zip codes and a list of consumer connecters will be provided).
The new marketplace is dived into four so-called "metal levels" based on the percentage of healthcare expenses each plan will cover: bronze (60 percent), silver (70 percent), gold (80 percent) and platinum (90 percent). Simply put, a plan in the bronze category would cost less up front but have higher deductibles when healthcare services are accessed, while the gold and platinum levels will have lower deductibles and fees.
But all plans are required to offer the same standard coverage, including doctor's visits, emergency services and prescription drugs.
For those that may be eligible, there will also be premium assistance to lower the monthly costs. The amount of assistance an individual or family may qualify for depends on income and family size.