LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Technical glitches on launch day for Michigan's new online health insurance marketplace couldn't dampen the relief Hussein Daoud felt for himself, his wife and their six children.
The Detroit resident, 51, came to apply for insurance at the Dearborn-based nonprofit organization ACCESS. He learned with the help of trained counselors that his annual income of $14,500 made him eligible for Medicaid and he likely won't have to pay for a plan that covers his family.
"This is the first time I asked for anything from the government, and I'm really glad that the government can help my family," said Hussein, who lost his supervisory job at a dollar store when it closed a few years ago. He now sells used cars and can't afford health care coverage.
Daoud, who came to ACCESS with his wife and youngest child, was among many uninsured residents studying a dizzying array of health care options released by the state Tuesday. No resident has fewer than 31 plans to choose from, and residents can pick from multiple plans in each level of coverage: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
Residents will qualify for tax subsidies to offset premiums if they earn between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty line. That's an income of about $11,500 to $46,000 for an individual, or $23,000 to $94,000 for a family of four.
People will pay dramatically different premiums depending on their income, family size, age, hometown and tobacco use.
Before tax credits are applied, a benchmark silver plan for a 35-year-old nonsmoker in suburban Detroit covering 70 percent of medical costs ranges from $183 to $414 a month, depending on the insurer. A 55-year-old nonsmoker's premium spans from $334 to $755 per month before tax subsidies.
A 35-year-old in the western and central Upper Peninsula can't find a silver plan for less than $264 before tax credits — or $481 for a 55-year-old. A bronze plan, the cheapest option for most unless they are under 30 and go with a catastrophic plan that covers less than 60 percent of costs, on average costs $275 a month.
Buying insurance is likely to be a confusing process, especially because Michigan has more insurers participating in the exchange than most states. The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services is urging residents to use its online premium estimator. To get a quote and enroll in a plan, consumers should apply at the federal website.
"Consumers should look at all available options in this new health insurance landscape to determine which policy best fits their needs and works within their budget," DIFS Director Kevin Clinton said in a statement.
The opening-day glitches, which were anticipated, included some visitors being asked to wait to view the login page because "a lot" of people were visiting the site. Others trying to create an account were told one couldn't be created because the "system is unavailable."
At ACCESS, which was one of four Michigan organizations helping residents sign up for insurance at no cost, individuals and families had been coming in seeking to enroll or get information throughout the day. With the website down, the navigators were answering questions and working with an online health insurance calculator so applicants would know what to expect when they could apply.
"It's just like a burden off their shoulders," said Nancy Berry, a certified navigator and program assistant manager. "They can finally afford health care."
Some 320,000 Michigan residents out of a total of nearly 10 million now buy their own insurance. Others are covered by an employer, the government or are among 1.1 million with no insurance.
Republican lawmakers blocked GOP Gov. Rick Snyder's call for Michigan to run its new insurance market or at least partner with the federal government on some customer service functions. Instead, the federal government has full control. Snyder had previously expressed concerns about glitches that could result from such a massive rollout of information technology.
The state estimates 365,000 to 1.3 million people could sign up on the market in 2014. But the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan projects just 127,000 enrollees next year, not counting workers who could be moved into the exchange by their employers.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spokesman Andy Hetzel said he expects more uninsured residents will begin to pay attention to the exchange after hearing of friends and family who sign up.
"After today, people will become more aware over time," he said. "It'll be a process."
Karoub reported from Dearborn, Mich.
Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services premium estimator: http://www7.dleg.state.mi.us/perc
Federal health care website: www.healthcare.gov