Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gop States Offer Little Help on Buying Insurance

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gop States Offer Little Help on Buying Insurance

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -

After three years of bashing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Republican governors were surprisingly mute on the first day consumers could shop for insurance policies through online marketplaces.

But in the 36 mostly Republican states that left the operation of their exchanges to the federal government, consumer interest Tuesday was high, while Democrats and advocacy groups took the lead in promoting the latest provision of the law.

"I'm thrilled that the United States is finally catching up with some of the other countries in the world that provide health care," said Houston resident Priscilla McAfee, who planned to use an exchange to buy a policy.

Ms. McAfee, who said she now has a COBRA policy after losing her job, is among an estimated 7 million Americans that federal officials say could obtain policies through the exchanges in its first year. Several hundred thousand of those live in Texas, which has the highest proportion of uninsured residents of any state.

Ms. McAfee's governor, Republican Rick Perry, has been among the most vocal critics of the law. "I'm very grateful for the timing ... at a time that my need is so great," she said Tuesday.

The federal exchanges, which market policies from private insurers, opened Tuesday despite the partial government shutdown that began the same day because of congressional budget gridlock rooted in Republicans' continued opposition to the law they deride as "Obamacare."

Obama administration officials said 2.8 million users visited the healthcare.gov website during the first 15 hours after the exchanges opened. It was enough to slow the server and keep some consumers from completing enrollment. But several of them said they are still eager to learn more, particularly about tax credits that will help pay for their premiums. Ms. McAfee said she expects her cost, once she qualifies for the income-base credits, to be about half the $500 she pays each month in her current coverage that expires Dec. 31.

Oi Thompson of Utah attended a health insurance fair in Salt Lake City. She said she understands about half of what is happening under the overhaul, but plans to wait a week before enrolling. …

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