INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - More than 500,000 Indiana residents without health
insurance will be able to start buying it Tuesday under the Affordable Care
Act, but while some are likely to decipher the federal website on their own
with a few computer clicks, others will need so-called “navigators” to guide
them toward the right plan.
Although the law that defined President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda
remains a source of partisan gridlock in Washington, this week marks the
rollout of the exchanges where uninsured residents can shop for coverage
that most will soon be required to carry.
Indiana was one of 36 states that opted not to run their own exchange, or
online marketplace, deferring to the federal government to create it for
them. The 34 health plans that will be sold on Indiana’s exchange range from
less than $100 a month for bare-bones coverage for an individual to close to
$1,000 a month for a family of four.
The open enrollment period for buying insurance through the website ()
will run from Tuesday through March 31. Coverage will begin Jan. 1.
But figuring out the system won’t be easy for everyone. That’s where people
like Marla Asberry come in. As lead outreach and health specialist for Open
Door Health Services, Asberry is a public insurance broker, or navigator,
trained by the state and federal government to help residents choose the
“It’s anybody’s guess how that first day is going to roll out,” she said.
Asberry and other navigators she works with have already been getting
questions about the exchange and are prepared for many more this week. They
have spent the past few months completing federal and state training, from
learning state insurance rules to helping residents avoid fraud that could
crop up with the opening of the exchange.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence has been no fan of the federal health care law -
even apologizing last year after equating the Supreme Court ruling upholding
it with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, his new administration has
still been working to provide some key backup ahead of the opening of the
The state has hired, temporarily, 150 new caseworkers to handle an expected
spike in residents seeking Medicaid coverage via the “woodwork effect” - an
increase of enrollees. The state also has run tests on its phone system to
ensure it will be able to handle call volumes.
State and federal officials already have pointed a few obstacles they expect
to work through after the exchange is up and running. State officials noted
last week that integrating the state’s Medicaid enrollment system with the
federal exchange online could take another month. National advocates for
Hispanic immigrants also pointed out last week that the federal government
is behind in rolling out Spanish-language services for non-native speakers.
Anyone earning less than the federal poverty level - $11,500 for a single
adult and $23,500 for a family of four - is exempt from having to buy
Anyone earning up to four times the federal poverty level - $46,000 for a
single adult and $94,200 for a family of four -- will qualify for federal
tax subsidies but have to buy insurance through the exchange to get the
The federal website takes residents page by page through a series of
questions about age, employment, earnings and that will be used to determine
what plans they will qualify for and how much they will pay each month.
Lucinda Nord, vice president of public policy for the United Way of Indiana,
said the application will look almost exactly like it does online now.