A dropdown menu allows applicants to select the state where they live, and the Healthcare Marketplace website then provides instructions and links to more information and how to get the coverage that meets the applicant's needs.
Step 1: Create an account
The easiest way is to fill out the application online, but it can also be mailed in or done in person.
According to healthcare.gov, certified application counselors will assist applicants through the process. Also, government agencies, such as state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program offices, will be available to help applicants to see if they qualify for certain programs.
A user name, password and security question will be needed for the protection of the applicant. He or she must live in the U.S. or be an American citizen.
Step 2: Apply
Basic personal information will be required, such as household income, family size and health insurance the applicant may already have. A Social Security number will be needed in this step to determine plan eligibility.
The Marketplace Application checklist shows what information is needed to apply for coverage.
Step 3: Choose a plan
Applicants will see side-by-side plans and premiums they are eligible for and will be able to compare them. Aid on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses also may be available.
People who do not purchase insurance are subject to penalties levied by the IRS. The fee for 2014 is 1 percent the applicant's yearly income, or $95 per person - whichever is the higher amount. In 2016, the fee is expected to increase to 2.5 percent or $695 – whichever is higher.
The 2014 fee for an uninsured child is $47.50, but the maximum a family will be required to pay will be $285.
The Kaiser Family Foundation calculator gives a rough estimate of the potential cost. It will be available until Oct 1.
Step 4: Enroll
Applicants can enroll by choosing plans that best meet their needs. Coverage could start as soon as Jan. 1. Open enrollment closes on March 31.
If you have questions, a 24-hour hotline is available: 800-318-2596; for hearing impaired, 855-889-4325. The 'Contact Us' page on Healthcare.gov also has live chat options and resources for small businesses.
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