The three most important things in real estate—"location, location, location"—are about to become just as important, if not more so, to tens of millions of individuals and small businesses buying health insurance under the new health care marketplaces scheduled to begin enrollments this fall across the United States.
The Affordable Care Act mandating those marketplaces, also called exchanges, is a national law requiring the uninsured to purchase health insurance that will take effect Jan. 1.
But the cost of that insurance, how extensive the benefits are, and the number of insurance companies that will opt or be chosen to sell on those those marketplaces are all going to depend on the state a person happens to live in.
And even then, there will be variations within regions of some individual states, complicating an already complicated new system.
How well—or poorly—a given state's exchange functions in coming years in providing affordable health care to its population could directly affect how businesses view that state's attractiveness as a place to open up shop or expand.
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"You're really at the mercy of what's going on in your state," said Jonathan Wu, co-founder of the price comparison web site ValuePenguin.com.
Wu's site has begun rolling out a health insurance rate tool for individuals states as their data becomes available. But so far, ValuePenguin has links for just four states and the District of Columbia—a reflection of the fact that many of the marketplaces are very much works in progress.
"I don't think consumers have any idea what they're going to have to spend out-of-pocket," Wu said.
Under the ACA, also known as Obamacare, health insurance will be offered for sale through the new exchanges to uninsured people, and to small companies with less than 50 full-time workers that don't already offer such insurance to their employees. People who don't sign up face a financial penalty that will escalate in coming years.