Compare plans, buy insurance with new healthcare website

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On October 1, the health insurance marketplace is scheduled to open. It's the website healthcare.gov created by the health care law where people can go to compare plans and buy insurance.  Many people will be required to buy insurance or pay a penalty which in 2014 will be $95 or one percent of your income.  You can begin comparing plans on October 1 when enrollment starts.  Coverage begins January 1.

Sandy Praeger, Kansas Insurance Commissioner, says there will be an online calculator to see what the plans will cost you.  Many people will be eligible for subsidies or tax credits to lower the cost.

"We want people to at least go to that website and put in their essential information and see what they are eligible for in terms of benefits," says Praeger.

For the marketplace to succeed, it will need young, healthy people to enroll and offset the costs of insuring older, unhealthy people.  Praeger says there may be sticker shock for some.

"The law requires that young, healthier peopole cannot be charged less than a third of what older folks are charged.  And so it compresses those age bands, as we refer to them, and that does mean that some young folks will probably be paying more.  But part of the reason they may be paying more is that it will be more comprehensive coverage," says Praeger.

She and others are concerned that many of the young and healthy will just pay the penalty rather than enroll.

"But you're rolling the dice still," she says about not having insurance if you suffer illness or injury.

Praeger is also concerned that many uninsured Kansans won't qualify for insurance in the marketplace.

"I think people will be a little surprised," says the commissioner.

She says they're people below 100 percent of the poverty level who would have been covered by an expanded Medicaid program.  But neither Kansas or Missouri lawmakers chose to expand Medicaid.

"Those folks, and it's over a hundred thousand potentially Kansans, will fall through the cracks.  They'll still show up in the emergency room and have to be cared for and those costs get shifted over to the rest of the population," says Praeger.

Lawmakers in both states did not expand Medicaid in part because of concerns about the cost to states over time.

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