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How to get help signing up for mandatory health insurance

With or without a government shutdown, a major part of the Affordable Care Act will take effect Tuesday. A new online marketplace will open, allowing those who need it to buy health insurance. Everyone will be required to have coverage by the end of March next year.

If you're confused about the Affordable Care Act, you are not alone.

Jennifer Lister said, "I really don't know what to think. I have a lot of questions."

Lister's going through a divorce and said she'll soon be joining the nearly 48 million other Americans who don't have health insurance.

"I'm concerned," Lister admitted, "I have to have my bipolar medicine to live."
We spoke with Lister at one of the seven Escambia Community Clinics where anyone can get help with signing up for insurance. But authorities there say time is running out.

"We'll try to get them through it the best way we can," said Bobbie Huffman, one of the clinic's administrators.
If you already have sufficient health insurance or Medicare, this doesn't affect you. But if you don't have coverage, on Tuesday you can start shopping for a plan at healthcare.gov.

President Obama claims, "It's like booking a hotel or a plane ticket."
Competitive plans will be offered with Olympic names: "Bronze" is basic, "Silver," mid-range, and "Gold" and "Platinum" are high-end plans. All must offer the same coverage. All will come with a monthly premium. The deductibles and co-pays will vary.

"People need to educate themselves and not procrastinate," Huffman said.

On March 31, 2014, open enrollment ends and the penalties begin. If you don't have health insurance by then, you could be slapped with a fine, the controversial individual mandate. There will be no penalties for a limited few.

We've posted information on where you can go to get help here.