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Affordable Health Care Enrollment: What it is and how to get it

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TYLER (KYTX) - Despite the government shut down, a key part of Obamacare has gone into effect today. Open enrollment has started for uninsured Americans, who can now apply for health insurance under the affordable care act. 

Federal and state governments have set up exchanges in every state where you can shop for and buy health coverage.

If you're already have health insurance, or you're covered by medicare, medicaid or other government programs, you don't have to do anything. It's uninsured Americans who are signing up today for coverage.

The plan's purpose is to provide insurance for legal American citizens who cannot get health benefits from their jobs, can't afford private insurance, or are ineligible for public coverage.

"My job, we don't have insurance so I have to try to find my own," says Natasha Pilkington from Tyler. She is getting care at Bethesda Health Clinic in Tyler, but being uninsured makes her nervous.

"You need insurance regardless of where you work at, if you get sick you know? The ER is not cheap!" she says.

So she's considering heading to www.healthcare.gov to apply for one of four health care plans"
bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The only difference between them is the monthly premium costs versus how much you pay out of pocket for care.

Signing up now through December 15 gets you covered starting January 1. Enrollment stays open until March 31, and then anyone without insurance gets fined either $95 a year, or 1 percent of their household income, whichever is greater. That fine will go up each year. By 2016, it will be $695 a person or 2.5 percent of your income.

"That's one thing I really don't care for, is that it's obligatory," says Sandy Bristow, who is also uninsured.

"My husband's employed but I'm not employed, so I just don't have any health insurance," she says.

She's not considering the affordable care plan.

"It's medical care with the oversight of the government. It becomes more complex. And the more complex something gets, the more opportunity there is for error," Bristow says.

The open enrollment is already coming under fire. A busy server has caused trouble loading pages, and call centers have been swamped. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 
says it's a sign of the need.

"In New York alone during the first few hours two and half million people want to sign up. If this doesn't show the hunger in America that we have to sign up for health care I don't know what does," Reid says.

Obama's administration hopes 7 million people will sign up by next spring.

Some people that apply for this health insurance are eligible for subsidies. If you're making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for a tax credit.  Those cost reductions depend on things like your income and household size. 

A health care discussion will be held here in East Texas. It will be October 28 at the Tyler chamber of commerce at 7 p.m.

For a more in depth look at Obamacare, click here:

To calculate how much cost reduction you may be able to get, click here:
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