The federal Health Insurance Marketplace will go live Tuesday, bringing the country one step closer to full implementation of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
And then. . .what?
The marketplace is one of the most anticipated sections of the health care overhaul bill (or dreaded, depending on your political bent), but as best we can tell there will be no ribbon-cutting or confetti cannons to commemorate its opening.
It's much less dramatic.
Sometime after midnight, a new section of www.healthcare.gov will become available to the general public. Anyone can log on, fill out some financial information and quickly find out their health insurance options.
If you don't make much - about $32,000 for a West Virginia family of four - the website will help you sign up for Medicaid.
Everyone else will be directed to another section of the website, where they can compare a variety of health insurance plans and then sign up.
"Practically, that's about the gist of it. It's supposed to be a very streamlined process," said Jeremiah Samples, assistant to state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling. "It's not an enormously time-consuming process."
If you already have health insurance and are satisfied with your coverage, there's no reason to log onto the marketplace. However, even people with insurance can use the website to see if lower-cost options are available.
Those purchasing health insurance through the marketplace will have eight to 10 different plans to choose from, Samples said, all provided by Highmark West Virginia Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Some plans will cost more than others, providing varying levels of health coverage. Highmark will follow up with each customer after they've selected and signed up for a plan.
Before any tax credits are applied, the average monthly premium for a midrange plan will cost $331 per person, compared with $328 nationally. In West Virginia, Highmark also will offer a lower-cost plan for an average of $280 per person.
Averages can be misleading, though: People can have dramatically different costs based on their circumstances.
Tax credits are based on income, age, location, benefit plan and family size. Tobacco use affects the bottom line, too, and West Virginia has the nation's highest smoking rate: Nearly 29 percent of adults smoke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People can choose from four levels of coverage - bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
All provide the same benefits, and all cap annual out-of-pocket expenses at $6,350 for an individual, or $12,700 for families. The big difference is cost sharing. Bronze covers 60 percent of expected costs; silver, 70 percent; on up to platinum at 90 percent.
Bronze plans have the lowest premiums; platinum have the highest.
Anyone making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (somewhere around $46,000 for a childless, unmarried West Virginia resident) will be eligible for a special government subsidy to help pay for that health insurance.
For Medicaid-eligible users, the website will send a notice to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which will then enroll that person in the government health insurance program.
Coverage through plans purchased in the marketplace will begin as early as Jan. 1.
While there's no deadline to sign up for Medicaid, open enrollment for other health plans ends on March 30.
Several groups have received grants from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to hire "navigators," which will help citizens sign up for health insurance through the marketplace.