3 things you need to know about the Affordable Care Act - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

3 things you need to know about the Affordable Care Act

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The Obama administration is in damage control over the roll-out of the new health care law.

Both the president and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have apologized for challenges with enrollment on the website.

Many Americans are also learning they're losing their cheap but limited coverage plans.

Despite the major challenges, the Affordable Care Act is still the law, and it's still confusing to a lot of people. So Newsline 9 sets politics aside and take a look at three things you need to know.

Kathy Hackel of Rothschild hasn't really had health insurance for several years.

"I've been without insurance since 2008," said Hackel.

Starting next year she can't get away with that. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires everyone to have health insurance.

Hackel has just a temporary job with health coverage below federal standards.

That bring us to the first thing you should know. Anyone without health insurance needs to buy it. That can be done on the health insurance marketplace. If you do have insurance through your employer, you don't have to do a thing.

You can apply for insurance four ways: online at Healthcare.gov—at least when it's working, fill out a paper application, enroll by phone, or work with a certified application counselor.

Prices on the marketplace can look daunting. But there is help.

"The law gives subsidies to people within a certain income level to help them pay for their premiums," said Mary Testin of the Bridge Community Health Clinic.

Those subsidies are only available if your employer does not offer what the government considers affordable insurance.

"Take a look, see if you can get subsidies. It can really help you," said Testin.

When do you need to buy insurance? That's the second thing you should know. If you want coverage to begin January 1, you must purchase by December 15. If you buy after that, it could take as long as 45 days for your coverage to begin.

The absolute deadline to buy insurance is March 31.

What if you don't? That's the third thing you should know. You may have to pay a fine.

"This year it's not very much. It's $95 or one percent of your income, whatever's greater," said Testin.

The next year the fine jumps up to $325, and even higher the year after that. But, as is typical, the government offers a slew of reasons why someone may be exempt from paying the fine.

Of course, with all the difficulties the government has faced so far, these dates and requirements could change.

And there's much more to the law than the points mentioned here. For example, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition. Also, a provision of the law already in effect allows children to remain on their parent's health care plans until age 26.

But for now, these are the things you need to know about the Affordable Care Act.

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