By Ryan Schuster
Starting next year, North Dakotans will have a new option when purchasing health insurance. A new online marketplace (also referred to as an exchange) will allow North Dakotans to search for, compare and purchase health insurance online, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment for coverage on the marketplace begins on October 1, with coverage taking effect in January 2014.
Like all states, North Dakota will have its own marketplace where insurance companies can sell four different levels of health insurance coverage, depending upon the amount of coverage and cost chosen. These marketplaces are voluntary. If you wish to continue purchasing health insurance through your employer (if your employer offers health insurance benefits) or individual insurance on your own directly from an insurance company, you can still do so.
The North Dakota marketplace will provide more choices for those searching for health insurance coverage. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota will continue to offer quality, affordable health insurance plans and products through traditional distribution channels. We will also offer plans on the North Dakota online marketplace for those who would prefer those products.
Some employers may stop offering health insurance and instead provide subsidies for employees to purchase insurance on the new online marketplace, but most are expected to continue offering health insurance benefits. A recent national survey of employers found that 69 percent plan to continue providing health insurance to employees when the online marketplaces start operating in 2014.
Subsidies to purchase insurance on the marketplace will also be available for North Dakotans making between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (or between $32,500 and $94,200 per year for a family of four).
Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.