Despite the partial government shutdown, the online health insurance exchanges included in the Affordable Care Act went live last Tuesday, with federal officials reporting heavy user traffic.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own health exchanges. In other states, people can buy insurance through exchanges being operated by the federal government.
Over 1 million people visited the healthcare.gov website before 7 a.m. on the day it went live. But the website, which provides information on the exchanges, has suffered from a number of technical problems. Federal officials largely blamed high usage and said the system’s performance should improve this week.
The plans on the exchanges vary in price and coverage but all include preventive care and do not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. Americans earning under 400 percent of the poverty level -- which works out to $45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for a family of four -- will be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase insurance on the exchanges.
Plans purchased before Dec. 14 will go into effect Jan. 1. Open enrollment through the exchanges will continue until March 31.
With millions of Americans gaining access to medical care, it becomes all the more important for policymakers to pursue additional cost-control measures in the health care system.