CHICAGO – Millions of Americans will be able to shop for the first time today on the insurance marketplaces that are at the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms.

The market places are opening in all 50 states, and the Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year.

The partial government shutdown will have no immediate effect on the insurance marketplaces because they operate with money that’s not subjected to the annual federal budget.


CHAPEL HILL – Sherry Hay, Director of Community Health Initiatives at UNC Family Medicine, says shopping in the marketplace will be similar to shopping for groceries at a supermarket.

“It’s just like looking at what items you would like to buy to feed your family. You can do that with health plans,” Hay says. “You can look at them side by side, and judge the benefits, the costs, and also see if you’re eligible for financial help.”

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Open enrollment ends March 31, 2014. Shoppers have until then to decide what plan they feel is best for them and their families.

Hay says there are some changes she feels Americans will be excited about.

“If you have a medical or pre-existing condition, you can get health coverage,” Hay says. “You will not be denied for that, as you were in the past.”

All Americans, with the exception of an exempt few, will be required to have health insurance.

Americans who can afford health insurance, but do not wish to purchase it will be charged a fine. There is financial aid available to eligible consumers. But not everyone has to purchase insurance through the federal marketplace.

If you already have health insurance through a private provider, you are not required to switch to the federal pool.

”It’s really important just to begin looking, and thinking, and pulling your information together,” Hay says. “The important thing is to really take charge and empower yourself.”

For more information about the healthcare marketplace, you can visit