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It's Out with 'Exchange' and in with 'Marketplace' on New HHS Website

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

January 16, 2013 --The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently rolled out new features on its main website publicizing the health care law, characterizing it as a portal for people to use when looking for information on enrolling in health insurance exchanges.

Notably, though, the site largely avoids using the word exchange, which is the term used throughout the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). Some experts have speculated that references to an exchange can be confusing to people who don't understand what an exchange is supposed to mean.

Instead the site uses the label "Health Insurance Marketplace," replacing the earlier "Affordable Insurance Exchanges." An HHS aide speaking on background confirmed the switch, saying that the exchanges often have been described in the past as one-stop marketplaces for insurance and that it seemed that "simpler was better."

The aide also said the biggest change to the site is the new focus on getting people the information they need for open enrollment beginning in October. Consumers, for example, will be able to sign up for texts and emails about new insurance options and benefits.

The revamped site comes as part of a stepped-up campaign by the agency to make sure that uninsured Americans understand that they have new choices coming for health insurance. A privately funded group, Enroll America, is undertaking its own push to boost enrollment.

The government site,, includes links to 17 states and the District of Columbia that already have received conditional approval to run their own exchanges and are expected to begin enrollment on Oct. 1.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog posted on the site last week that "anticipation is building" for enrollment in exchanges and the revamped site will be the gateway for Americans to find their way to enrollment.

She said it's a site "where you'll be able to buy insurance from qualified private health plans and check if you are eligible for financial assistance—all in one place, with a single application."

She added that, "Many individuals and families will be eligible for a new kind of tax credit to help lower their premium costs. If your state is running its own Marketplace, will make sure you get to the right place."

The site has information on subsidies, or advance tax credits, that will be available to low- and moderate-income Americans. Beginning in October, people who sign up for the exchanges will be able to see how much they would receive as soon as they submit their marketplace applications. The tax credit is sent directly to insurance companies and applied to premiums.

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