"This is day one of a process. We're in a marathon, not a sprint, and we need your help," Tavenner, the CMS administrator, said.
The rollout of the exchanges, or marketplaces, marks a key step in expanding access to health insurance for millions of uninsured Americans beginning in 2014. Under the law, most people without insurance face the prospect of a fine.
Once fully operational, the exchanges are intended to make it easier for people who are uninsured or have limited coverage to shop for health coverage. And consumers with low and modest incomes may qualify for federal tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies to reduce their monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
"Now keep in mind that while this is the first day you can sign up, it is certainly not the last," Tavenner reminded consumers on Tuesday.
Some 7 million people are expected to enroll in private health coverage through the exchanges in 2014, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Another 9 million will enroll in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, according to the research outfit's projections.
Visit the official federal government website for details on coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
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