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Plenty Of Time To Shop For Health Care

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The first day of October also marks the opening of the new health care marketplace. However, there is still confusion about how individuals with or without coverage will be impacted by the change.

"Are they losing their coverage, are their rates going up, is there anything that they have to do?" said Dakotacare CEO, Kirk Zimmer.

These are just a few questions South Dakota health care officials find themselves answering lately.

"They're aware of the October 1 date, but not sure what's going to happen on that date," said Zimmer.

The new health care marketplace is officially open for business as of Oct. 1. That means that those with or without health insurance can browse through different plans in the new marketplace, and pick one that fits them and their family.

However, many people are still in the dark on what the change means for them.

"I think the first thing I'd tell interested parties is don't panic," said Zimmer.

"People still have the ability to get health insurance from now until March 31, 2014 when the open enrollment period ends. That's a full six months away from today," said Avera Health Plans Chief Administrative Director, Deb Muller.

And those who do need coverage by Jan. 1 still have months to find a policy that fits their needs.

"Anyone that applies for coverage from today through Dec. 15 can get coverage on Jan. 1 of 2014, which is the earliest effective date that anybody can get," said Zimmer.

Although experts are saying people should not rush into applying for a plan just yet, the online marketplace has already had so many visitors, that the login page is actually having technical difficulties.

Health care officials say that they still expect people to refuse to purchase health insurance. A choice that not comes with a price.

"The individual penalty for not purchasing insuarnce in the first year is $95, wich a maximum of $285 per family, or one percent of your household income, whichever is greater," said Zimmer.

"For somebody that's making $43 thousand a year, they're going to pay one percent of their income, $430 for that particular year's penalty," said Muller.

The penalty will go into effect immediately on Jan. 1, and will increase each year.

"The important thing to stress is no one that's covered today on either an individual or a group policy is going to lose that coverage simply because the exchange opened today. It just provides another shopping opportunity," said Zimmer.

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