Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 4:55 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's insurance commissioner said Monday that there is "no way at all" that people have enough information to make decisions when the new health insurance marketplaces created by the federal Affordable Care Act open next week.
Registration opens Oct. 1 for the thousands of people who don't get health insurance through work to shop for coverage through online marketplaces, with coverage to begin Jan. 1.
Federal subsidies will be available to many low- and middle-income families to help cover costs. At the same time, a new federal requirement will kick in that mandates most Americans must have health insurance or face fines.
Louisiana's health insurance marketplace will be run by the federal government under a decision made by Gov. Bobby Jindal, but the marketplace has some oversight from Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon's Department of Insurance.
Donelon said the insurance choices and subsidies available are so complicated that he expects it will be difficult for people to navigate and for accountants to work through the tax credits involved.
"The complexity of it is mind-boggling," Donelon, a Republican who opposed the federal health care law, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
The insurance department has posted information on its website and has a consumer assistance office that will answer questions as the insurance enrollment period opens and continues through March 31.
Donelon said his department also will be doing various outreach efforts to provide information about the marketplace and insurance options.
In addition, four organizations in Louisiana are splitting $1.8 million in federal "navigator" grants to help with education and enrollment across the state.
Companies that are offering health insurance plans through the exchange also will advertise them, insurance agents will have information and federally-qualified health centers around the state will be helping with enrollment. Organizations that help eligible people sign up for Medicaid and Medicare also will be providing information.
Two companies plan to sell insurance plans statewide through Louisiana's exchange: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Louisiana Health Cooperative, a nonprofit that Donelon said is still working to begin its operations.
Vantage Insurance will offer plans on the marketplace in many Louisiana parishes, while Humana will do so only in Jefferson Parish, according to Donelon.
The insurance commissioner said he's pleased with the participation in Louisiana's health insurance marketplace and believes it will offer people options, depending on how much they want to pay and what they want covered.
"We have enough to meet all the demand," he said.
He said, however, that some people likely still wouldn't be able to afford coverage even with the federal subsidies and could face penalties, up to $95 per uninsured individual in 2014.