Deadline for ACA enrollment approaches

WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The deadline to sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is just five days away.

You must enroll in the new health care exchange by Monday, March 31, or face a penalty.

Just how much is that penalty, and could you be exempt?

Newschannel 3 spoke with Bronson Community Health Coordinator Amy Terry to find out.

In December, Shirley King's husband passed away, and that meant an end to the Kalamazoo resident's insurance.

"Now I am seeking employment and without any insurance at all," King said. "I'm starting all over at 50 years old."

So, she decided to stop by Bronson's free enrollment assistance event at the Comstock Township Library on Wednesday.

King is hoping someone can help her navigate the website.

"I just want to make sure that I get it right, and don't get frustrated in trying to jump through all the hoops," she said.

According to the Bronson Healthcare Group, some 14,000 people in Kalamazoo are still uninsured.

"I think that there's still a lot of questions and a lot of confusion surrounding the legislation," Terry said.

Just Tuesday night, the Obama administration announced it would grant more time to people who had already started the sign-up process, but didn't meet the March 31 deadline.

"You've created a login ID, and an account, and you've input your information, which includes your personal information and also some financial information, then you've started the application, it just hasn't been completed yet," Terry explained.

So, even if you haven't paid your premiums or selected a plan, you're still okay.

But don't wait, because if you haven't signed up--or at least started--you could face a penalty.

$95 or 1 percent of your income--whichever is higher.

"You'll get hit with that for your 2014 taxes, so you'll see it when you file your taxes in 2015, there'll be a penalty associated then," Terry said.

It also means you could be stuck without insurance until the exchange re-opens at the end of the year.

There are some exemptions--for example, if you have a financial hardship.

Low-income households may not have to sign up on the exchange, but instead, you may qualify for the new medicaid expansion program--the Healthy Michigan plan--which starts April 1.

The enrollment assistance will continue at Comstock Township Library until 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night.