The Affordable Care Act exchanges are supposed to officially open tomorrow. It will be a big day for policy wonks, politicians, IT contractors and bureaucrats, but it will not be a big day for regular people. It won’t even be an important day for the limited number of people planning to eventually buy insurance on the exchanges.

While people can technically start buying coverage tomorrow, there is no good reason anyone should and numerous reasons to wait. As a result it is likely very few people will actually sign up.

Even though people can select a plan starting October 1st, the actual coverage won’t start until January 1st. Since insurers aren’t offering an early bird special there is no benefit to signing up right away and many drawbacks. The most obvious is that a person’s situation could change substantially in the next three months. A person could develop a medical problem,  lose their job, get a new job, decide to move, etc.  The logical thing would be to wait until we get much closer to January so you are making the best choice with the most updated information possible.

The other important reason to wait is that many of the exchanges are still experiencing technical problems. For example the DC exchange announced they are still having problems with their program that calculate individual’s subsidies, and Colorado doesn’t expect that part of their exchange to be functioning online until November. Hopefully, at least some of the technical issue will be worked out in the first month or two the exchanges are technically open.

If you want your coverage to start on January 1st, the first day it can, you only need to make your purchase by December 15th. I suspect a significant number of people won’t really start using the exchanges for another two months. That is the date the really matters for regular people.

Photo by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license