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Only 40% aware of Affordable Care Act subsidies, online marketplace

Updated: November 1, 2013 6:15AM



Three out of four people in Illinois said they were aware that uninsured people who fail to buy health insurance will be forced to pay a penalty starting Jan. 1, 2014, under a rule in the Affordable Care Act.

But only four in 10 Illinoisans said they were familiar with the online marketplace or subsidies, which are supposed to help uninsured people get coverage, a new study found. There are 1.6 million uninsured people in Illinois.

Illinois’ number matched the average for the five other states in the survey: Michigan, New York, Texas, Florida and California

The study, by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation, was conducted between from July 15 to Sept. 8. Study participants were 19 to 64 years old.

The goal of the Affordable Care Act — informally known as Obamacare — is to for more uninsured Americans to have health insurance plans.

Under the law, all Americans will be required to get health insurance or pay a fine, beginning January 1, 2014. People who don’t buy insurance will face a $95 penalty or 1 percent of their income — whichever is greater — when they file their tax returns in 2015. The penalty will jump to $325 or 2 percent of your income in 2015 and $695 or 2.5 percent of your income in 2016.

But the online marketplaces in Illinois, known as Get Covered Illinois, and other states is supposed to provide help for uninsured people to get insured. State officials say the marketplace will be a one-stop place where people without insurance can shop for affordable health insurance plans, starting Tuesday.

Consumers have until March 31, 2014, to enroll on the marketplace, though they must enroll by Dec. 15 for service to start on Jan. 1, 2014. People applying for Medicaid can enroll anytime.

Individuals and families with income between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level can qualify to receive subsidies on a sliding scale if they get insurance through the marketplace. That works out to up to $45,960 for an individual and up to $94,200 for a family of four.

For example, a family of four making $50,000 in Illinois could buy the second-lowest silver plan for $682 a month before the tax credit and $282 a month after the credit.

The marketplaces are one of the key ways the Affordable Care Act is supposed to decrease the number of Americans who are uninsured.

State officials have said they estimate 500,000 Illinoisans will purchase health coverage through the exchange in 2014. As many as 1.3 million in the state are expected to buy an exchange-based product by 2017.

mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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