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October 1, 2013

U.S. health insurance exchange to open in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City —

More than three years after President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was signed into law, Oklahomans without health insurance can finally start shopping for coverage through an insurance exchange that has been bitterly opposed by the state’s highest elected officials.

The long-anticipated opening of the insurance marketplace will give Oklahomans their first opportunity to explore the nation’s health care overhaul legislation that will create many changes in public and private health care coverage. Among other things, the law requires all Americans to have health insurance, including plans offered by employers and government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, or pay a penalty.

Oklahomans can begin enrolling in health insurance plans on Tuesday and enrollment will continue for six months. Coverage begins Jan. 1 for those who sign up by Dec. 15. Oklahoma is among 36 states where the federal government will run the insurance marketplace in 2014.

Consumers can shop, compare and buy health insurance plans online via healthcare.gov, through a call center, in person or by mail. Tax credits are available for those with income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.

Navigators who are trained to help consumers identify health plans they qualify for and enroll will be available to help Oklahomans find insurance. In Oklahoma, navigators will be Cardon Outreach in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Community Health Centers, Inc., which has partners throughout the state, and Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc., which serves southeastern Oklahoma.

The online site has links to every state market, including Oklahoma’s. Information released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week indicated that Oklahomans will pay less than the national average for health insurance under the federal exchange, a position that was disputed by state Insurance Commissioner John Doak, a staunch opponent of the law who maintains health insurance rates will “skyrocket” when it is implemented.

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