GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - In the beginning of October, people will be allowed to start looking at and signing up for insurance coverage online as a part of the Affordable Care Act.
The act, also called Obamacare, will impose penalties on people who do not have health insurance. It goes into effect January 1, and the open enrollment period for coverage for the first year begins Oct. 1 and ends March 31, 2014.
Michigan does not have its own online marketplace, so when online marketplaces go live Oct. 1, Michiganders will have to use the federal government's website, healthcare.gov, to search for and enroll in coverage.
In Michigan, according to a 2012 study by the Michigan Department of Community Health, 13.9 percent of people were uninsured. It's those people who need to be the most aware of the requirements mandated by the act.
Starting in 2014, people who are uninsured will have to pay a penalty. This first year it's either $95 or 1 percent of an individual income -- whichever one is higher. The penalty for uninsured kids is half the adult amount. That penalty will increase each year after 2014, going up 2.5 percent of one's income or $695 per person in 2016.
If someone who elects not to have health insurance gets sick, that person will have to pay the entire cost of his or her medical bills. He or she will not be protected from very high bills that can cause bankruptcy.
In advance of the online marketplace launches in October, there are some things people can do to prepare for insurance shopping:
- Gather together important information, like W-2 forms. This will give a good idea of family income in advance of the insurance searching process. Income levels are very important, as any available subsidies will be based on income.
- Check with your employer to see if they offer any kind of coverage before checking out the marketplace.
As far as the cost, 24 Hour News 8 found a calculator online that vies an estimate of how much insurance will cost in the new marketplace. The calculator requires entering family information -- like income and number of children -- and it will give a cost estimate.
Those who already have insurance provided by an employer probably won't see much of a change in the coming months as far as coverage, but it's a good idea to check with your employer to make sure of any changes.
Experts said everyone's costs are likely to change as a result of the act.
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