10/01/2013 01:19 pm ET

Obamacare In Illinois: What You Need To Know About The State's New Health Care Marketplace

Besides waking up to the federal government being shut down, Illinoisans also awoke Tuesday to the state's brand new health care exchange, Get Covered Illinois, going live and opening for enrollment.

As Chicagoist notes, some 1.8 million Illinoisans -- almost 15 percent of the state's population -- are uninsured and many of them are getting the first opportunity for coverage through the marketplace thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Many others, the Chicago Tribune notes, will be newly eligible for federal tax credits toward buying their own private insurance on the exchange.

The website for Get Covered Illinois offers residents the chance to identify the coverage they need and learn about their options and any financial health that might be available to them and their family. Small business owners and non-profit organization leaders can also look into information about applying for employee health coverage.

The site also connects users to counselors who can help them through the process on the phone or in person. According to Fox Chicago, these "navigators" number 1,200 and will help counter lingering confusion about the exchange.

"They'll make it as simple as comparing apples to apples, side by side, so that they can compare the different health insurance plans that are available and then just go with the choice that they feel best fits for their health needs," counselor Miguel Rodriguez explained to Fox.

Kelly Sullivan, chief marketing officer for Get Covered Illinois, admitted in a statement, "We know that a majority of adults in the state are still unaware of the marketplace and how it can help provide access to affordable health insurance plans." But a $33 million advertising campaign launching Tuesday has the goal of changing that.

Users have until Dec. 15 to enroll in the marketplace for benefits that would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Beyond Dec. 15, users still have until the end of March to avoid penalties for 2014.

Many people -- including those who already have insurance through their jobs or are insured through Medicare, Medicaid or Veterans Affairs health care -- do not need to buy new coverage through the exchange. According to the Associated Press, U.S. citizens living abroad are also exempt.

A call center has been set up to filed questions about the new exchange at 1-866-311-1119 and will be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.



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