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Government unveils new health insurance website Posted: July 7th, 2013

By Maryalene LaPonsie

As health insurance exchanges get ready to launch this fall, the government has revamped its website at HealthCare.gov. While the old page was devoted to providing consumers with information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new site will be the home of exchanges where it is hoped consumers will find affordable health insurance.

In addition to the newly redesigned website, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a 24 hour call center is now available to answer questions. When open enrollment on the exchanges begins on Oct. 1, call center operators will also be able to help consumers through the application process.

"The re-launched Healthcare.gov and new call center will help consumers prepare for the new coverage opportunities coming later this year," Marilyn Tavenner, an administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a written statement. "In October, HealthCare.gov will be the online destination for consumers to compare and enroll in affordable, qualified health plans."

Low cost health insurance through exchanges

Under the health reform law, exchanges will be offered in every state. The online marketplaces are expected to be where many of those who are currently uninsured will be able to find medical insurance and meet the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's mandate that virtually every U.S. resident have health insurance coverage in 2014.

To keep health insurance plans affordable, the government will subsidize premiums for families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty limit. Using 2013 poverty guidelines, that means a family of four earning up to $94,200 annually would be eligible for subsidies.

The exchanges are not the only way the government hopes to make low cost health insurance available. Many states have also expanded their Medicaid eligibility which means more families may qualify for free health insurance under that program.

Helping Americans find health insurance coverage

The new government website and call center are intended to help families navigate their options and compare health insurance plans. In addition to targeting consumers, these resources are also available to small business owners.

"The new website and toll-free number have a simple mission: to make sure every American who needs health coverage has the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves and their families -- or their businesses," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a written statement.

The website at HealthCare.gov is separated into two sections: one for information and one for buying health insurance coverage. A Spanish version of the site is available, and it can also be easily accessed on mobile devices. The toll-free number for the call center is 1-800-318-2596.