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Key Consumer Questions About The Health Reforms

By The Associated Press

How do I know whether "Obamacare" applies to me?

Polls show many Americans remain mystified by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare" as it is commonly known. But there's an obvious starting point: Do you have health care coverage?

If your employer provides health insurance for you, it's likely you don't have to do anything on Oct. 1, when enrollment begins. The president has said you will be able to keep your doctor and your plan.

For others â¿¿ those without insurance â¿¿ it's more complicated. The law requires virtually all U.S. citizens and legal residents to have coverage or pay a penalty. That will happen either through an expanded government Medicaid program, which would cover costs for lower-income people, or by requiring people without coverage to buy it. Financial help will be available for those who qualify, based on income.

To enroll through Medicaid, an individual would have to have an income that tops out $15,400, or about $31,000 for a family of four.

There are just a few exceptions to the requirement for coverage, including for prison inmates, people who entered the country illegally, those facing financial hardship and religious objectors.

___

When do I have to decide whether to buy health insurance and what happens if I don't?

Beginning in 2014, virtually all Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay an annual penalty to the government. For an individual, the fine begins at a minimum of $95 in 2014, stepping up annually to a minimum of $695 by 2016. The fine for uninsured children in 2014 is $47.50 for each child, although the maximum a family would have to pay in penalties next year is $285. Those fees climb each year.

Federal researchers predict that about 6 million people could be hit with fines by 2016.

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