CMS Launches New Website for Consumers and Advocates

In June, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its website, www.healthcare.gov, to feature information for consumers about the Affordable Care Act, with a particular emphasis on the upcoming Health Insurance Marketplaces. The easy-to-use website includes frequently asked questions that cover topics from health insurance basics to eligibility for financial assistance when purchasing insurance in the Marketplace.

The site has two main tabs at the top of the page: “Learn,” and “Get Insurance.” Under the “Learn” tab, people can answer a few basic questions about themselves, such as their state, age, and approximate yearly income. They will then be told which potential coverage options could be available to them including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or financial assistance to purchase health insurance in the Marketplace. People can also print out a personalized checklist of materials they can start gathering together in preparation for the start of the open enrollment period on October 1, 2013.

The “Get Insurance” tab has more information about the upcoming Marketplace. During the open enrollment period, which initially will span from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014, consumers will be able to enter the online Marketplace through this tab. In states like Pennsylvania where the federal government is operating the Marketplace, this will be the place where people can compare
and purchase insurance plans starting October 1st. In addition to the improvements to the website, CMS has also established a toll-free number individuals can call (1-800-318-2596 or TTY: 1-855-889-4325) to have their Marketplace questions answered by a customer service representative. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Website users who need help can also use the live chat feature to speak with a CMS representative in real time.

There are links at the bottom of the website’s homepage that have more specific, technical information for the media, partner organizations, and state agencies. These links also include publicity materials that advocacy groups can print out and share with consumers at educational events. The website is also available in Spanish by visiting www.cuidadodesalud.gov.

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