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Washington Health Insurance Exchange Set To Open

Flickr Photo/Alex Proimos

Starting October 1, uninsured people will be able to shop online for private insurance in health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges. In Seattle, nonprofits and other organizations have been out educating people about how to sign up for insurance through the exchange.Within Reach, a nonprofit that connects low-income individuals with basic needs such as health care, visited Solid Ground to educate people about the Affordable Care Act. The organization has staged several outreach events recently to let people know how to take advantage of the open enrollment for private insurance in the online health care marketplace exchange. The marketplace will allow people to shop around for the best private insurance, giving apples-to-apples comparisons of available plans.

The exchange will also help people learn whether they qualify for government-subsidized financial assistance. For example, a family of four making less than $32,500 a year can qualify for free health coverage. A family making up to $40,000 a year could get almost $1,000 in tax credits each month.

Mira Hattal works for Within Reach. She said people seem open to the idea of the health exchange program.

I actually haven’t seen a ton of pushback from folks. I think it’s mostly just a lot of confusion. The more we can sit down and provide an open space for them to get their questions out and heard and addressed, then people seem to be really receptive to the changes coming.

A lot of those changes are also confusing to young people, Hattal said. She said people in their 20s want insurance, but are largely mystified by the details of the new system.  Their issue, she said is just getting the sense of what insurance is all about. "Oftentimes people have been covered under their parents. This is something that’s generally new for them,” said Hallal.

Washington state set up a website called theHealth Benefit Exchangewhere people can compare health care plans, find tax credits and get financial aid. The health care marketplace goes live and open enrollment runs from October 1 to March 31.