How Healthcare Changes Affect Low-Income Americans

1:54 AM, Oct 1, 2013   |    comments
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If you have a low income and haven't been able to afford health insurance in the past, the federal government says the health insurance marketplace that opens on Tuesday was designed with you in mind.

When you log on to on Tuesday, you'll be able to compare plans and enroll for one on the spot.

That coverage won't start until January 1.

Depending on how much you make, you may also be eligible for tax credits or subsidies.

Think of those like a gift card that can be applied right away to your premiums, so you're paying less for your plan each month.

You will have to pay a fine if you decide not to buy health insurance. In 2014, that fine is $95 per person for the year, and it'll continue to go up each year.

But if you would have to shell out over 8 percent of your income to get the cheapest health plan, you're exempt from the penalty - and you won't have to pay those fines.

You'll be able to find the exact numbers of what a plan will cost you only when the marketplace opens on Tuesday.

In the meantime, you can log on to the Kaiser Family Foundation's online calculator to get an estimate.

But what about the people who still won't be able to afford insurance on the online marketplace?

Unfortunately, there's a possibility you might get locked out of the exchange because of a loophole.

The law was designed to cover as many people as possible through both the marketplace and the expansion of Medicaid to include more people.

But Georgia is one of 25 states that decided against expanding its Medicaid program.

Regardless, you should check with your local Health and Human Services department. You may be eligible for Medicaid and not know it.

If Medicaid is not an option, look for a community health center.

Since the cost at those clinics depends on your income, you could qualify for free or low-cost care.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh or ask questions about the health care overhaul on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ.

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