My mom loves me. She just made the effort -- in this day of instant communication via Facebook, email, and telephones -- to snail-mail me a page she tore out of the August 19, 2013, issue of Time Magazine (linked here, subscription required). The article raises the alert that scammers and less-than-ethical insurance providers are primed to take advantage of the confusion wrought by the impending launch of health care exchanges beginning October 1.

Given some of the comments and responses I received after my first post on this topic last week (My Health Insurance Journey Begins), I wouldn't be surprised to find that many otherwise intelligent people are confused and prime bait for the scammers.

That's why I'm going below the fold to set some things straight...

First, let me be clear that I'm no expert. I am a researcher by nature. I thoroughly check things out before I open my wallet or commit my time. My current, employer-sponsored health insurance expires next Saturday at midnight, and I need to make sure my family's covered between now and when the health care exchange plans take effect on January 1. I'm completely vested in this process, and, since it's so formidable, I'm sharing what I learn, as I learn it.

So, with that out of the way, let's dispel some confusion. One commenter said:

I went on an exchange site today, and learned that my wife and my combined income (2014 estimate) does not qualify for any tax subsidy, and the recommended coverage puts us right back to where we were...like $1200 per month.
There is only one exchange site, and it's at healthcare.gov. In Tennessee, since the governor decided to let the federal government manage the state's exchanges, this is our ONLY option. The exchange plans will not be available until October 1.

Do not be fooled by sites with names like "healthcare.com," which shows a picture of the White House and the tag line "Know Your Options" on its home page. While this site, and others like it including ehealthinsurance.com, acts as a clearinghouse for insurance quotes, it is not an "exchange" and is not at all connected to the ACA. Dont' let them fool you! (Healthcare.com even has an extensive discussion on the ACA including both factual and speculative information. Bless their wicked little hearts...)

In fact, if you are considering buying insurance on the exchange, go to healthcare.gov right now and register. That way you'll receive any updates prior to the launch. And explore the site. They add new information regularly and have answers to a lot of questions.

Another commenter said:

...you have to exhaust the COBRA before you can transfer your creditable coverage.  Maybe ACA has already brought liberalization of transfer rights and you can already do so now without first exhausting COBRA.
You do not have to be currently insured to move to the ACA (but you can!). Any individual or family can get insurance on the exchange if they don't have insurance or if they can cancel their existing insurance. This is what healthcare.gov says about getting coverage if you already have insurance:
You may use the Marketplace to replace individual insurance you currently have. In the Marketplace, you can find out whether you can get lower costs on monthly premiums and reduce your out-of pocket-costs. You can compare plans based on price, benefits, and other features important to you.

Check with your insurance company before cancelling your policy. You may have to wait until the end of your policy year before you can cancel.

See the link above for more specifics. The bottom line is, the government is inviting you to shop around. I would say, if you are currently buying your own insurance, go ahead and check out the exchange since you may find a better deal (especially if you qualify for subsidies). But, of course, you are going to have to wait until October 1 to see the prices and plans. It'll be here before you know it!

Originally posted to Libertina on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 12:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by Three Star Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.