Even though an attempt to defund health-care reform is at the center of the government shutdown debate, the state health insurance exchange will open for business today (Tuesday, Oct. 1) as planned.

State insurance exchanges -- expected to help provide coverage to millions of uninsured nationwide, including thousands in Connecticut -- are a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health package known as Obamacare.

Political drama aside, the state's health insurance marketplace is ready to roll, said Kevin Counihan, president and chief executive officer of Connecticut's health care exchange, Access Health CT.

"We've all worked our butts off for 14 months to get this up and running," Counihan said. "The best way (to see what the future holds) is to jump into the water."

Those who don't have insurance through work, Medicare or another mechanism need to buy coverage through the exchange or face a penalty. Those who buy insurance through the site will start being covered Jan. 1.

Starting today, consumers will be able to go online to compare insurance plans, see if they're eligible for discounts and enroll using the Access web site -- www.AccessHealthCt.com

More Information

State residents can begin singing up for health-care coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act as of Tuesday, Oct. 1.
To sign up or for information about the coverage options, go to: www.AccessHealthCt.com
Or call: 1-855-805-4325 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

State residents can also enroll or get information through the exchange's call center by phoning 1-855-805-4325 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Despite controversy over the Affordable Care Act, Counihan expects that only a few people will enroll initially when the site opens.

However, he said, he expects a lot of people to begin investigating the offerings, both through the call centers and through local clinics and other organizations that are helping educate people about the program.

"I expect a lot of confusion and a lot of activity," Counihan said. "Do I think it will be overwhelming activity? Not really."