Obamacare Help: Tips For Applying Online To The Healthcare Marketplace

Signing up for the Healthcare Marketplace (where you and the Affordable Healthcare Act/”Obamacare” finally meet) may sound like the chore you want to keep bumping to the bottom of the list.

The abundance of frustrated accounts from would-be signees has only curbed enthusiasm for doing what everyone needs to by March 31, 2014 – registering an account, submitting an application, and selecting an insurance plan for your medical expenses.

If you elect to sign up during this open enrollment period, this piece is the first in a series of how-to’s for utilizing the Healthcare Marketplace (saving you as many surprises as possible) – beginning with the sign up and application process.
Simply put, your steps will include:

Create a Marketplace account (username and password linked to an existing e-mail)
Verify Your Identity
Get Started (on your application)
Family and Household
Additional Information
Review and Sign

Below are details on these steps, as well as a few tips for potential issues you may encounter in the process. Before continuing though, know that there are other ways to apply for and receive coverage.

Three Other Ways to Apply:

Paper Application – fill out your application at home and mail it in. You’ll be made aware of which plans you’re eligible for, as well as benefits like reduced premiums and Medicaid/Child Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility when you receive your eligibility notice in the mail. This allows you to skip straight to the plans you can choose from online.

By Phone – call 1-800-378-2596, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week (1-855-889-4325 for TTY). I called the number myself to try it and ask a few questions. It’s surprisingly accommodating, initially beginning with an automated message, but quickly giving you the option of speaking with a representative.

In Person (Assisted Application) – all states have trained personnel to help you understand your options and enroll. Their names can differ from state to state (navigators, application assisters, certified application officers, Medicaid/CHIP officers).

If you still elect to use the website, registering and applying online should go something like this:

Creating a Marketplace Account:

After going to healthcare.gov, click “apply online”.

Next, you’ll select whether you’re someone seeking a plan for yourself (or family) or an employer shopping for employee healthcare (the page automatically loads for “single person/family” plans).

You’ll need to select your state before continuing.
Select your state with the pull down menu on the left.
Select your state with the pull down menu on the left. | Source

If your state has its own website for purchasing healthcare plans, you’ll be notified of this and given the link to that page. You’ll continue from the Marketplace site otherwise.
You should see this after selecting your state.
You should see this after selecting your state. | Source

When creating my account, I encountered my first issue: labels for the fields to enter your new username and other information didn’t display properly. This seemed to only happen on Mac desktops (at the time this was written) – a quick check on a PC and my smartphone and tablet didn’t have the same issue.