The online health insurance marketplace launches today in Illinois, but a survey says most people don’t know about it.

According to a survey released by the Commonwealth Fund, only four out of 10 people in Illinois said they were familiar with the marketplace, or knew that financial assistance is available to help pay the cost of insurance. However, around 75 percent of those surveyed said they were aware that those who don’t purchase insurance will have to pay a penalty beginning next year.

“So it does raise concern that people think they have to have a health plan that’s going to cost them a whole lot of money, where in fact the major point of the law is to provide people that don’t have health insurance with an affordable option,” said Sara Collins, author of the study.

Collins said once people were made aware of the exchange and available subsidies, most who would be eligible said they planned on enrolling.

State officials estimate there are 1.6 uninsured million people in Illinois, and they expect 500,000 to purchase a plan through the exchange in the next year. Coverage can begin as early as Jan. 1, and consumers have until March 31, 2014 to enroll in the marketplace.  Go to for enrollment details.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio/