|By Richard Craver, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The tool is available at www.bcbsnc.com/BlueMap. The insurer said about 1.2 million residents could benefit from the tool as the October open-enrollment period for insurance plans nears.
Among the regulatory issues described on the website are new health plans featuring essential benefits, eligibility to keep current plans, premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
The map is aimed at people who may be purchasing health insurance for the first time. One recent trend has been more employers, particularly small businesses, opting not to provide health-insurance coverage for employees to reduce expenses.
Another key factor:
The tax credits will be available to uninsured individuals and families who have incomes between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level standards. For individuals, the current income range is
"Blue Map is designed to help individuals buying their own health insurance (to) understand their options with a clear and concise summary personalized to their coverage needs," states
The Blue Map tool asks users a few questions and applies the responses to provide a customized summary of information for individuals under the age of 65 to make an informed decision about coverage in 2014. The tool will indicate for current
The insurance exchanges will be subsidized by the federal government and operated by state governments. They will go into effect
The state marketplace will be available online and by phone. The process for applying is expected to begin in October, about when employers will begin enrolling workers in their 2014 health plans.
Also eligible are employees who pay more than 9.5 percent of their wages to participate in an employer's health plan, and whose employer's plan pays less than 60 percent of the cost of covered benefits.
"The tax credit subsidies are a game-changer," said
"'They will make health coverage affordable for huge numbers of uninsured families who would have been priced out of the health coverage and care they need."
The size of the tax credit depends on income level: The lower the income, the larger the tax credit.
For example, a family of four with a household income of
The federal law does not require employers to offer coverage. However, employers with 50 or more workers who don't offer coverage will be required to pay
What makes the insurance marketplace and tax credits a political football is that the federal law was created with the expectation that individuals and families below 138 percent of poverty level would be covered by
(c)2013 Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, N.C.)
Visit Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, N.C.) at www2.journalnow.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services