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Healthcare Deadlines Explained

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- In fewer than 30 days, Iowans will be able to start looking at new health insurance choices.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will join an online marketplace that opens on October 1.

A new study from 11 states shows what those marketplace options might cost. A middle policy for a 21-year-old could average $270 per month. a 60-year-old with a similar policy could pay $615 per month. Those prices are estimates, and in Iowa, the Insurance Commission is still unsure what those prices might be.

Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said private insurers have until September 11 to jump into or out of Iowa's insurance exchange, and that's why he's waiting to release the rates.

"The rates were not delayed being released, we just have taken a conservation approach of not releasing rates until we know what companies are truly going to be in the marketplace," Gerhart said.

But that federal deadline has been changed several times recently, looming closer to October 1, when the exchange gets off the ground. That's causing concern, even from state lawmakers.

"When California, the biggest state in the nation, raises questions about whether they can go on October 1, it ought to raise real concerns. And I can tell you, among Democratic members of the Congress, there's real concerns whether the exchanges can get off the ground by October 1," said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

So, what is a regular Iowan supposed to do in the meantime?

"Really nothing by October 1. October 1 is just the first day that Iowans are going to be able to go to and look at the plan options that are available in their region," Gerhart said.

Then, Iowans who aren't already covered will have six months -- until March 31, 2014 -- to choose the plan that's right for them. In that time, the state is prepared to put out plenty of information to the public.

"We're planning on doing 20 events around the state of Iowa, we're going to be holding webinars, there's going to be some paid media, there's going to be some outreach efforts to educate Iowans," Gerhart said.

It's all in an effort to make sure people make the right choice. Gerhart also said that many families may qualify for a tax credit, depending on the plan they choose. He recommended families look into that credit before choosing a plan.

The Affordable Care Act does state that all individuals have to be covered by January 1, 2014, but, there is a federal coverage gap in place. As long as Iowans are signed up by the state's March 31 deadline, they will be granted an exception.
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