NORFOLK - At the heart of the Affordable Care Act is the 'the health insurance marketplace' - offering'the metallic plans' -- Catastrophic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Catastrophic provides just the basics with the least coverage. The plans grow more comprehensive as you climb from Bronze to Platinum. How much you'll pay each month for these plans is being discussed right now in Richmond.

Mike Dudley, the president of Optima, is in charge of presenting the company's plan.

'The process for the approval is still unclear to everyone. All of us have submitted our recommended rates,' he said.

The Bureau of Insurance has indicated that by early August, it will have the rates approved.

By year's end, the uninsured will have to buy one of these plans, its private equivalent or pay a fee.

Businesses also have pay a fee if they employ 50 or more people and don't offer insurance. They have more time to comply than you do.

Jill Age, vice president of TFA Benefits, a Towne Bank company, is helping employers navigate the different health insurance plans under the new law.

'Those who work for companies who don't offer it today should definitely check out the marketplace,' she recommends. 'That person should not wait because that person has an individual mandate. That doesn't mean you get to wait because your employer gets more time. You as an individual have got to find some coverage.'

Age says many business clients want to try to make it work, but others are more likely to cut hours and let people go so they don't have to offer insurance.

'Businesses are watching the number of employees they have. They're staying under 50 if they can. They're watching that they're not working over 30 hours,' she adds.

Temp Agency owner Shira Itzhak says her business, Remedy Intelligent Staffing, has boomed because employers don't want to offer health insurance under the mandate.

'Well nobody is getting around it. They won't be responsible for it, but we will be. Maybe a smaller company they're not going to be able to afford it. It could really put some of those companies in a big financial situation that they can not afford to offer healthcare or pay the penalty.'

Until Optima and the other eight Virginia-based insurance companies' proposals get approval, no one will know how much insurance will cost in Virginia,

Health care reform goes into effect in just months.

Click here to learn more about the plans.
Click here for information about buying a plan through a private company instead of under the government program.

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