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Local health exchanges are opening soon, what you need to know

6:25 PM, Sep 26, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- October 1st is fast approaching and the local healthcare exchanges are about to take effect as part of the Affordable Care Act.

So what does this mean for you?  We have a local expert who breaks down the different programs in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

George Washington University's Professor Leighton Ku says if you already have a plan, nothing will change for you.

Ku says, "If you already have health insurance from your job, if you are getting Medicare, if you are getting Medicaid already nothing has changed."

But for those without health insurance, a ton of options await you as the marketplaces open up across the region.

Ku says, "What the new exchanges will have is a wide array of private insurance plans."

These plans are referred to as the "metal tiers", they range from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans from each provider.

"If you select the bronze plan, your monthly premium will be lower but everytime you go to the doctor or get medications, you're gonna have to pay a little more out of pocket," adds Ku.

As your monthly cost goes up, the cost of doctor visits and medications drop, with the platinum plans having the highest premiums. 

For those who never had insurance, the choices can be complicated.  Help will vary depending on where you live.  Maryland and the District opted to run their own health insurance. 

Ku says,"They arranged to have a larger number of people there on-board to help assist."

Virginia decided to have the federal government run their insurance on behalf of the state.  So in the Commonwealth, there will be fewer government-run programs available for assistance. 

Ku says, "There's a non-profit organizaion called 'Enroll America' who decided it's willing to donate some resources to help with some of the outreach."

Health insurance coverage is not going to start until January 1st, but don't wait until December, or your coverage may not start at the beginning of the New Year.

Medicaid expansion will also vary from state to state, and this will affect your chances for reduced healthcare costs.

Ku says, "DC has already expanded it's Medicaid program, Maryland is going to expand its Medicaid program, Virginia is not."