Enrollment in health care exchanges begins in one month

LANSING, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Following years of heated exchanges on Capitol Hill, enrollment in the Federal Health Care Exchange begins in one month.

In Michigan, 14 insurance companies, including Blue Cross-Blue Shield, have signed on.

Soon, you will simply long on and sign up online.

All uninsured Americans will be fined a small percentage of their income if they fail to enroll by March of 2014.

However, anyone earning just above the federal poverty level--or about $11,000 a year all the way up to $94,000 for a family of four--will be eligible for federal tax credits to defray the cost of the mandated insurance.

That's one reason Caleb Buhs of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services says everyone should browse the exchange to see what's being offered.

"Those federal tax credits are something that people should take advantage of," Buhs said. "They need to at least take a look at what their options are. In some cases, they'll have a large portion of their premiums paid for."

Anyone already insured can also shop around for better coverage.

Preventative care requires no co-pay or out-of-pocket expense from now on.

And insurance companies will no longer be allowed to drop you, or refuse you for pre-existing conditions.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder was among the first to reach across party lines and accept the Affordable Care Act in Michigan, and he's been campaigning hard for state lawmakers to pur the last piece of the puzzle in place--expanded Medicaid in Michigan for folks who fall into a donut hole.

They make just above the poverty line, but not enough to buy private insurance, and they're not eligible for Medicaid because they have no dependents.

The federal government will pay billions in the first three years to completely cover the cost of expanding Medicaid in Michigan, and the state will knock in 10 percent after that.

The Governor says we have a moral obligation to take care of each other.

"I like to view us as one big family of ten million people, and if you're sitting at the kitchen table, and you say you've got a chance to help people who are sitting at the table; it's not going to cost you any more money, (and) you can dramatically improve their live, you're going to figure out a way to get it done," Governor Snyder said this past week.

Medicaid has been a lifesaver for Kalamazoo mother Roberta Cruz and her four children.

She's part of the working poor who make just under the poverty level.

She has no car and relies on her part-time retail job and food stamps to get by.

Without Medicaid, her only option would be the emergency room--a reality for many of her friends.

While Cruz is already covered, up to a half-million more low income individuals in Michigan will be covered through Medicaid expansion, and 1.3 million will become insured on the Federal Exchange.