Obamacare enrollment set to begin Oct. 1 - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Obamacare enrollment set to begin Oct. 1

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In less than three weeks a new way of getting health insurance will begin. Enrollment starts October 1 into Obamacare and starting January 1, health insurance for an estimated 2 to 4 million Texans will be available.

Monica Crowley with Lone Star Circle of Care says the organization has spent the past several weeks preparing for the launch.

"And this isn't a frightening process these Marketplace options are private insurance options that provide comprehensive coverage like a private insurance option," said Crowley.

There are four different plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Under the lowest cost Bronze plan participating insurance companies will cover 60 percent of health care expenses while the policyholder pays 40 percent. Coverage in the highest cost plan comes with a 90-10 split.

Financial help to pay for the insurance will be provided, according to Regina Rogoff with People's Community Clinic. The assistance will be based on income levels.

"These are what we'd call the working poor, people who are largely employed, don't get health care through their employer, and really can't afford individual coverage otherwise," said Rogoff.

Non-profit groups are training Certified Application Counselors. They will walk people through the application process which is almost like filing income-tax.

Elizabeth Colvin says the board with Foundation Communities, which traditionally provides tax help for low income families, wanted to step up and help with the start of Obamacare. Two sites to sign up will be opened by the Foundation, the most central location in Austin will be located on the second floor of Highland Mall.

"There's a lot we don't know, we do know there are some very good things that will help people in Central Texas like if you have a pre-existing conditions, you have cancer, if you were born with a disability, you can now purchase insurance from the marketplace you are no longer excluded," said Colvin.

A recent survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, estimates monthly premiums for some individual plans range from under $100 to almost $150. A Family plan estimates run from $400 to $160 a month.

According to health program analysts, Anne Dunkelberg with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, if you already have insurance (something provided through your job) there may be no need to change.

"But if you employer is shifting too much of the cost on to you for example, let's say they are just offering coverage, but you still got to pay for it all, if what you have to spend is more than 9.5 percent of you income then you can go the marketplace and get some help there," said Dunkleberg.

For some the approval process could be a little slow, something like going through airport security screening. Federal and state paperwork initially may have to be processed manually, according to Texas HHS spokesperson Stephanie Goodman.

"It's not going to be quite as convenient for people because they may have to put in two applications one for their children one for themselves, but it will be the way to get help the fastest in those early days," said Goodman.

There is a penalty for not playing. Individual fines start at $95 to a minimum of $695 by 2016. For parents who fail to insured their kids it's almost $50 for each child maxing out at $285. Federal researchers estimate 6 million people could be hit with fines by 2016. A trip to jail is not part the penalty. But, the IRS will hold back tax refunds for those who fail to pay.

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