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Affordable Care Act: What to know if you are uninsured

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

We continue our weeklong look into the Affordable Care Act and how it affects the uninsured. We are also including in this topic: people who have private health insurance.

It's not from their employer, they bought it themselves through a broker or online.

It's really for these people, the uninsured and privately insured, that the law was created - to give them more options and lower prices.

Beginning Oct. 1, you can go to the "marketplace" at www.healthcare.gov. There, you can search out different health plans, check if you're eligible for federal subsidies and sign up for insurance beginning Jan. 1.

Here are some important things for the uninsured to remember:

  • Nearly everyone must have insurance, so if you're not getting it through your job, you need to get it on your own.
  • To be eligible for a federal subsidy that reduces your monthly premium, you must buy your insurance through the marketplace at healthcare.gov.
  • If you fail to acquire coverage, you'll have to pay a fee of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher, on your 2014 tax return, due in April 2015.
  • Oct. 1 is not a deadline, it's a starting point. You have until the end of March next year to obtain coverage. But if you fail to do so, you'll owe the fee and have to most likely wait until November 2014 to sign up for the following year.

How will the uninsured be protected under the law? The Act requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. There are no yearly or lifetime dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits. Plans through the marketplace guarantee free preventative care. The law makes it illegal for health insurance companies to cancel your coverage just because you get sick.

Cheryl O'Donnell from Enroll America says her outreach agency and many more are trying to get the word out.

"Oct. 1 and the new health coverage options that are available, this is an unprecedented opportunity for the uninsured. A lot of the uninsured in our community want health insurance, but the issue is they've been locked out of the system because they have pre-existing conditions or they couldn't afford it," O'Donnell said.

If you are uninsured and still have questions, visit cbs5az.com/healthcare or send your questions to my Facebook page at facebook.com/DaveCherryCBS5.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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