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New Online Tool Helps Uninsured Navigate Health Care System

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

As thousands of Coloradans prepare to sign up for healthcare coverage using the state’s new insurance marketplace, one organization is rolling out a new high-tech tool to help them navigate the new system.

The Blue Guide was developed by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, and is available online and through mobile devices. It allows users to filter information by zip code, specific health care needs and language.

Its developers hope the guide will help people who may have never had insurance find healthcare services and plans using Colorado's new healthcare exchange.

The exchanges are a product of the Affordable Care Act. They are intended to help consumers find health plans and, perhaps more importantly, determine if they're eligible for federal help in purchasing those plans.

Colorado's exchange is set to launch Oct. 1 -- and could see heavy traffic right off the bat. The state’s insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar estimates about 500,000 Coloradans will use the new exchange to sign up for coverage. 

In the Washington Post, Salazar told Colorado Public Radio’s Eric Whitney she expects a few bumps in the road as thousands of people try to use the new system.

"We know it's not going to be just a completely smooth transition as people who have never had insurance buy it and try to figure out how to use it," Salazar said.

An estimated 800,000 Coloradans currently lack health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, most people have until Jan. 1, 2014 to sign up for healthcare coverage or face a penalty.

Still not sure how the insurance exchanges are supposed to work? Check out this in-depth explanation from NPR's Julie Rovner.

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