Q. I'm thinking about retiring in 2014 but I won't be old enough for Medicare yet. Will I be able to buy health insurance through an exchange here in Louisiana? Our governor has done nothing to get our state ready. Also, will I have to buy COBRA for 18 months before enrolling through the exchange?
Wow, you're really up to speed on the Affordable Care Act! For readers who may need a refresher, starting in 2014, every state will open an exchange, an insurance marketplace, operated mostly online, where individuals can shop for health plans and qualify for income-based subsidies. The federal government has been handing out millions of dollars to states to help get this done, but Louisiana is one of a handful of states that has refused even to take the money, let alone set up an exchange (the others are Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas).
Perhaps anticipating something like this, the authors of the law specified that if a state declines to set up an exchange, the federal government will do it instead, which is what presumably will happen in these six states. So the answer to your question is yes, you'll be able to buy a health plan in Louisiana, on an exchange run by the federal government.
And no, you won't have to run out your COBRA benefits first, although you certainly can if you want to. When the time comes, you should probably compare the cost and quality of coverage on the exchange with your COBRA plan before deciding which option to take.
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