Smooth Opening for N.J.’s Insurance Exchange

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) -

Supporters held rallies to encourage people to sign up, phones rang steadily in support centers and politicians continued to debate the policy behind it as New Jersey’s online health insurance exchange opened Tuesday.

The marketplace is a key part of President Obama’s health insurance overhaul, which opened across the country Tuesday, allowing people to begin signing up for coverage that becomes available Jan. 1. Users making up to four times the poverty line — that’s $94,000 annually for a family of four — can also be eligible for subsidies.

There were no reports of calamitous glitches or long lines at resource centers or major protests in New Jersey, one of 36 states where the federal government is running the exchange.

At the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, which has a federal “navigator” grant to help people learn about their new insurance options, outreach specialist Bianca Gines said the phone was ringing steadily all morning with requests for information. “A lot of people are curious to see what they qualify for,” she said.

But when she went to Freehold to do in-person outreach in the afternoon, she found no one had made appointments for assistance on the first day.

A federal report claimed that premiums in New Jersey — even before subsidies — would be lower than what is now available for private coverage.