AUGUSTA, Ga.-- (WRDW) The start of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins October 1st. That means, if you don't currently have insurance, you can begin signing up at http://www.healthcare.gov for insurance from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
There's still a lot of confusion out there about who's eligible, what the new plans will look like, and what you should do to get coverage. News 12 is on your side, breaking down what you need to know.
News 12's Laura Warren spoke with Russell T. Head, an insurance broker in Augusta. He says, "The law today says come January 1st, 2014, you've got to have coverage, somehow, some way."
While Congress fights to push the deadlines around, or change pieces of the Affordable Care Act, Head says, the bottom line is healthcare reform is going to happen. That was set in stone back in 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, and necessary.
Denise D. Kornegay, Executive Director of the Georgia AHEC Network says, "I think the problem with the ACA is there's more fear out there than knowledge."
That's why Kornegay has made it her mission to learn all she can about the new law, and tell others. With so much information, misinformation, and confusion swirling around the country, she says, many don't even realize they are eligible to enroll.
"According to the projections, 75% of the people who are eligible to enroll tomorrow, are unaware that they're eligible," she said.
Anyone without insurance, who is a United States citizen (or lawfully present), who lives in the United States, and isn't currently incarcerated is eligible for insurance coverage in the new healthchare exchange. With 33,680 uninsured people in Richmond County, and more than 15,417 uninsured in Columbia county at the time of the 2012 U.S. Census,it's a law that will have a huge impact here.
Kornegay says, "According to something I heard at a meeting in Atlanta, Richmond Co. has the highest percentage of uninsured who are eligible for this."
And by law, starting January 1st, all of those people will have to have insurance, or pay a fine. It's $95 the first year, and the penalty will get more severe after that.
Kornegay says, "The second year it's $395, and the third year, it's $695."
Starting October 1st, if you don't have insurance, you need to go to http://www.healthcare.gov to sign up. But, don't expect a ton of options. This year, the Augusta area will only have two options for providers: Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Humana. Those are the only two providers in the Augusta area participating in the exchange this year.
Kornegay says, "People are really skittish right now in the insurance industry about what this is going to do and what this is going to mean."
But, in years to come, she expects to see more options on the healthcare exchange.
Stay tuned to News 12 for continuing coverage on the Affordable Care Act.