AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's been proposed for decades, debated for years, and now the time is here: mandated healthcare coverage enrollment begins Tues., Oct. 1.
The Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010. The law is 1,990 pages when printed, leaving a lot of questions for everyone.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau , Texas has the highest percentage of people uninsured in the nation. In 2012, 24.6% of Texans (6,426,000 people) are uninsured. Only Nevada (23.5%), New Mexico (21.9%) and Florida (21.5%) have more than 20% of their populations uninsured.
As we enter the open enrollment period, there are still many things unknown when it comes to your coverage.
Many of you have questions about what the Affordable Care Act means for you. That sent us digging -- finding out what you need to know.
Q: What if I already have health insurance? What changes for me?
A: As long as your employer and/or insurance provider continues to provide minimum coverage, there will be no change. You do not need to enroll for health coverage.
Q: OK. I need health insurance. Where do I sign up?
A: You can begin enrolling on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at www.healthcare.gov .
Q: Does everyone have to buy the same insurance?
A: No. The Affordable Care Act is a marketplace where you will be able to see different plans. The U.S. Health and Human Services department says Austinites will be able to select from about 76 different plans.
There are four basic levels of coverage: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. There is a 5th level: catastrophic. The catastrophic plan provides what is essentially the bare minimum coverage. To qualify, you must be under 30 years old.
The level of care does not change depending on the plan you select. What does change from level to level is the amount you pay up front in monthly costs, in co-pays, and how much you're billed for after a doctor or hospital visit.
Q: How much do plans cost?
A: We don't know is the simple answer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who administers the program in Texas, has not released any firm numbers on how much specific plans will cost.
However, in a statement, an HHS spokesperson told KXAN a 27-year-old in Austin making $25,000 per year will pay $87 per month for the lowest cost bronze plan, when including tax credits. For a family of 4 in Austin with an income of $50,000 per year, the lowest bronze plan would only cost $64 per month.
Q: What if I have a pre-existing condition that has prevented me from buying coverage in the past? What changes for me?
A: With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers are no longer allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Q: How do I know if I will qualify for subsidies?
A: Generally, individuals and families living between the poverty line and four times the poverty line will qualify for varying levels of subsidies. For an estimate on how much you will qualify for, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's Subsidy Calculator .
The poverty line varies depending on the number of people in your family. If you're single, the poverty line is $11,490. If you are married with 2 kids, the poverty line for you is $23,550. For a more detailed table of Poverty Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, click here .
What that means is if you're single, you will generally receive subsidies if your household income is between $11,490 and $45,960. If you are married with 2 kids, you will generally receive subsidies if your household income is between $23,550 and $94,200.
Q: What if I don't want to sign up right now?
A: The enrollment period lasts until March 31. You have 6 months to decide which plan works best for you and sign up.
Q: What if I don't want to sign up at all? Will there be any penalties?
In 2014, the fee for not having health insurance is 1% of your family's annual income or $95 per adult, whichever is higher. The fee for each uninsured child is $47.50. A family would pay no more than $285 in penalties.
In 2015, the fee for not having health insurance goes up to 2% of your family's annual income or $325 per adult, whichever is higher. The fee for each uninsured child is $162.50. A family would pay no more than $975 in penalties.
In 2016, the fee for not having health insurance goes up to 2.5% of your family's annual income or $695 per adult, whichever is higher. The fee for each uninsured child is $347.50. A family would pay no more than $2,085 in penalties.
However, there are a few cases where you would not be penalized. For more on those, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website .
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