The wait is almost over. Tuesday will be the first time people get to see what the Health Insurance Marketplace can offer.
Buildup to the online insurance shop opening its virtual doors has been epic. Federal government health agencies and advocates for the Affordable Care Act have promoted the heck out of this place where uninsured Americans and those who buy their own insurance can compare and purchase policies for 2014.
In Florida, about 25 percent of the population is eligible and will finally be able to see what policies — and prices — are available on the www.healthcare.gov website. Full implementation of the small businesses and Spanish-language portions of the site will take a few more weeks.
Officials admit there will be glitches on a system that in Florida includes more than 100 plans from about 10 private insurance companies. And there still will be plenty of questions about how these options translate to individuals and their pocketbooks.
That's why The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com will be continuing its Health Care Q&A through the six-month enrollment period. We'll try to help clear up confusion about the health law. Just visit TBO.com/healthcare/QA.
We aren't insurance advisors or federal employees working for the Marketplace. We're consumers just like you. We'll ask experts to clarify issues relevant to you and point toward resources that can offer additional help.
Many of us are asking similar questions about the health law, so we'll keep the conversation going online and in the Tribune with a regular feature. This week, our question comes from Juanita in Spring Hill, who wants to make sure she doesn't get 2014 insurance too soon, or too late.
Q: My situation: I'm 63, female and have no pre-existing health conditions. My employer advised me it is terminating my corporate health coverage effective at year-end. Can I begin searching via the Marketplace on Oct. 1 for replacement coverage, or must I wait until Jan. 1 and risk a possible gap in coverage?
– Juanita from Spring Hill
Answer: Tuesday's launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace is for people who want to shop for 2014 coverage. So you can shop now and even apply for coverage at www.healthcare.gov knowing that the new policy on the online exchange will be effective on Jan. 1.
Your age and situation is a common one: Middle-aged adults who want health insurance are facing a lot of choices under the Affordable Care Act's mandate that Americans get health coverage starting Jan. 1.
While employment-based coverage traditionally has covered more than half of the insured people in the 45 to 64 age group, some, like you, are learning that their employer is shifting gears and not offering insurance in 2014.
Groups that support the Affordable Care Act, such as the AARP, say the new online marketplace will provide more options to uninsured Americans, particularly for the 50- to 64-year-old population. They estimate 11 million of the 58 million adults in that demographic are uninsured and that a vast majority will be eligible to shop at www.healthcare.gov.
While you don't have a chronic pre-existing health condition, many of your peers do, and they depend on insurance to keep overall health care costs down, the AARP says. As many as 20 percent of uninsured adults applying for individual insurance in the past were denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
The AARP reports that 30 percent of the people in this age group spend at least 10 percent of their disposable income on doctors, medications and treatments. Just 18 percent of the 19- to 49-year-old age group spent that much.