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Consumer Alert: New Health Care Markets On The Way

One goal is to help consumers master the "metals," the four levels of coverage that will be available through exchange plans â¿¿ bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

Blue Cross is also working with tax preparer H&R Block, which is offering its customers a health insurance checkup at no additional charge this tax season. Returns filed this year for 2012 will be used by the government to help determine premium subsidies for 2014.

"This tax season is one of historical significance," said Meg Sutton, senior advisor for tax and health care at H&R Block. "The tax return you are filing is going to be key to determining your health care benefits on the exchange."

Only one state, Massachusetts, now has an exchange resembling what the administration wants to see around the country. With six years in business, the Health Connector enrolls about 240,000 Massachusetts residents. It was created under the health overhaul plan passed by former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney and has gotten generally positive reviews.

Connector customer Robert Schultz is a Boston area startup business consultant who got his MBA in 2008, when the economy was tanking. Yet he was able to find coverage when he graduated and hang on to his insurance through job changes since. Schultz says that's freed him to pursue his ambition of becoming a successful entrepreneur â¿¿ a job creator instead of an employee.

"It's being portrayed by opponents as being socialistic," Schultz said.. "It is only socialistic in the sense of making sure that everybody in society is covered, because the cost of making sure everybody is covered in advance is much less than the cost of putting out fires."

The Connector's executive director, Glen Shor, said his state has proven the concept works and he's confident other states can succeed on their own terms.

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