health insurance exchange

There are seven shopping days left until Christmas. But there are just five days until another important deadline — the last day to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if you want coverage to start January 1.

After a slow start, activity on the federal website HealthCare.gov has been heavy all month. And with the deadline approaching, some people are getting worried that they won't get signed up in time.

And this being the health care law, it's complicated. There is more than one deadline.

Your Questions About The American Health Care Act

Dec 18, 2013

In recent months, NPR staff has published a series of questions-and-answer stories related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Now we've compiled them into an interactive so you can explore answers that are most relevant to you.

There are nearly 80 questions, ranging from who's eligible to how much insurance might cost, among two dozen topics. Filter the list by selecting categories or asking questions.

Did we miss an important question? Let us know.

Enrollment in the federal government's new health insurance exchange picked up sharply in November, but the number of people signing up for coverage still trails original forecasts. Officials from the Obama administration say they expect the pace of enrollments will continue to increase now that the insurance website is working more smoothly.

Users have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins in January.

One thing that's clear about the relaunch of the troubled HealthCare.gov website is that it can accommodate more people.

Federal officials said more than 1 million users logged in on Monday, and nearly that many on Tuesday.

Buried in the paltry enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act that were released last week was something that came as a surprise to many — the success states are having signing people up for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to low-income people.

For Obamacare to succeed, it's crucial for young people to sign up.

Healthy young Americans need to pay into the insurance system to help cover the costs for older, sicker people.

So the White House is reaching out. Its website sent emails to subscribers with a big, orange graphic that says half of young people can get coverage for $50 a month or less.

The health care exchanges may be open, but there's no question they're still kind of a mess.

"The rollout has been excruciatingly awful for way too many people," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius conceded to the Senate Finance Committee last week.

But mess or not, the law is going forward, people are trying to use it, and they have questions. Here are some of yours, and our answers.

The new health care law will provide around $1 trillion in subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans over the next decade to help them pay for health insurance.

Johanna Humbert of Galien, Mich., was pleasantly surprised to discover that she qualifies for an insurance subsidy, since her current plan is being canceled. Humbert makes about $30,000 a year, so she'll get a subsidy of about $300 a month. The new plan is similar to her current one, but it will cost $250 — about half of what she pays now.

But where will the money come from to pay for subsidies like these?

Lisa Dieckman, a retired psychologist in Los Angeles, likes the Affordable Care Act's promise that everybody can get health insurance. But she's not happy about being told she can't keep her own coverage and will have to pay considerably more for a policy she doesn't consider any better.

More than 12 million Americans buy health insurance on their own, and many are getting cancellation notices because their individual coverage does not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. This is causing anxiety and anger — especially since most of these people can't get onto the healthcare.gov website to figure out their options for 2014.

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