A Healthcare Marketplace to Help You Find Insurance

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted August 12, 2011

Today, we are taking steps to relieve one of the biggest headaches middle-class families face - finding affordable health insurance. By 2014, state-based Affordable Insurance Exchanges will be in place to give consumers the kind of choices their Members of Congress have. They include unprecedented tax relief for families that will bring the cost of insurance down.

When you shop for groceries, you typically go to a supermarket where you can compare prices and brands, and find the best products that meet your personal needs. Soon you’ll be able to purchase your health insurance in a similar way – through a marketplace called an Exchange.

What is an Exchange? And how does it help you? An Exchange is a one-stop marketplace where you can choose a private health insurance plan that best fits the needs of you and your family. Just like you can purchase your eggs, milk, vegetables, and cleaning supplies from your local supermarket, an Exchange will be your one stop for all of your health insurance needs. You will be able to:

  • Look for and compare private health plans
  • Get answers to questions about your health coverage options
  • Find out if you’re eligible for health programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or tax credits that make coverage more affordable
  • Enroll in a health plan that meets your needs

You might remember that on July 11th the Department of Health and Human Services announced a proposed framework to help states build Affordable Insurance Exchanges. Today, we’re partnering with the Department of Treasury to take the next steps to establish these Exchanges.

The three proposed rules issued today seek to create a path to a simple, seamless and affordable system of coverage for you and your family. They include:

  • Exchange Eligibility and Employer Standards: The first HHS-proposed rule details the standards and process for enrolling in qualified health plans and insurance affordability programs. It also outlines basic standards for employer participation in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).
  • Medicaid Eligibility: The second HHS proposed rule expands and simplifies Medicaid eligibility and promotes a simple, seamless system of affordable coverage by coordinating Medicaid and CHIP with the new Exchanges.
  • Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit: The third proposed rule, which is issued by Treasury, lays out how individuals and families can receive premium tax credits to make health insurance coverage more affordable.

To make sure we structure the Exchanges in a way that meets your needs, we want to hear from you. In the weeks ahead, both Departments will conduct a robust outreach campaign to receive your comments on these rules. We’ll then make modifications based on the feedback we receive. You can submit comments here: Exchange Eligibility and Employer Standards, Medicaid Eligibility, Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit.

I am also eager to continue collaborating with states to set up their Exchanges without wasting resources. Today, I sent a letter to Governors soliciting comments from states on how their partnership with HHS will allow them freedom to innovate and help design an Exchange that works best for the citizens in their state.

We are on our way to 2014 when millions of individuals, families, and small businesses will have access to the same kind of affordable insurance choices as Members of Congress.

For more about the announcement today, you can read the news release here.