Healthcare Exchange Program Launches Tomorrow

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COLUMBIA - The federal health insurance exchange program begins Tuesday, and while the web page may be dense, the website created for the exchange outlines applying for coverage in just four steps.

October 1 marks the first day applicants without health insurance, or those with coverage looking to switch plans, can view how much health insurance will cost for them.  The website, healthcare.gov, will take applications and allow people to enroll in an insurance plan until March 31.  All plans will take effect on January 1.

The website features dozens of pages with information on President Obama's new health care plan, including how to qualify for lower out-of-pocket health costs, exemptions to the "individual mandate" and how to prepare for applying and enrolling for a plan.  However, the process of finding individual policy information come October 1 is outlined on the front page--create an account on the website, submit an application, with information such as annual income and Social Security number and browse through the options returned.

Missouri is one of 25 states using the federal government's system of exchange, which means Web traffic may be slow. The website offers a search function for the nearest agency with employees who can help navigate the new system.

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