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In a June 2013 survey, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that 7 out of 10 uninsured Americans wants healthcare coverage, 8 out of 10 of those who want coverage don't get it because of cost, and only 2 out of 10 know how Obamacare exchanges work.

It is a common idea that American adults under the age of 30 consider themselves to be young and invincible, but an early-summer survey concluded that 7 out of 10 Americans under the age of 30 said that it is "very important" for them to have healthcare coverage and nearly 8 out of 10 agreed that health insurance is "something I need," at least for catastrophic coverage.

Only 10% of Americans of any age who don't have health insurance answered yes to a survey question that health insurance is "not very important" or "not important at all," but very few know how to access Obamacare when it becomes available October 1.

Here are 5 things every uninsured American needs to know:

1. Health insurance made available by the Affordable Care Act will be available through exchanges for individuals.

A health insurance exchange is a virtual shopping mall offering health insurance plans from different companies that have agreed to participate in the program. It will possible to submit a written application or to sign up for health insurance by phone, but most people will prefer to sign up online.

The application will ask for your age and income to (1) determine your rates and (2) determine whether you qualify for Medicaid or a federal subsidy of your insurance premiums.

If your state has expanded Medicaid, and your income is under the new limits, you won't have to pay anything at all for your insurance, although you won't get Medicaid benefits beyond the cost of your premiums if you don't sign up for insurance. If your income is above Medicaid levels but below certain relatively generous cutoff levels, you'll get a tax credit that is paid to your insurance company one year at a time. This tax credit can cover up to about 95% of the cost of your coverage. 

If you have a low income but earn too much to get Medicaid now, and you  live in a state that has not expanded Medicaid, and you won't get any coverage at all unless you file an estimate of your 2014 income that shows you will earn more than the limit for Medicaid. However, once you get the tax credit, you will then need to file and pay taxes on the income you earn.

2. If you are covered by your employer's plan now, you aren't required to change your coverage.

People who are employed by companies that have more than 50 employees get their coverage through their employers. People who buy their own health insurance get their coverage through the exchanges (or any other program offered outside of the plan by any health insurance company).

People who work for small businesses may get their coverage through the SHOP exchange, but your employer signs up for this you do not. If you work for a small business that is not required to pay for healthcare coverage, that is, one that has 50 employers or fewer, and if the small business you work for doesn't use the SHOP program, then you can get your own healthcare plan through the exchanges.

3. It is only possible to sign up during open season.

The insurance exchanges open October 1, 2013 for health insurance that will become effective January 1, 2014.It will still be possible to sign up through March 31, 2014 (although not retroactively). 

On April 1, 2014, it will only be possible to get coverage if you have a "qualifying life event," such as moving to a different state, getting married, or having a baby, until the next open season.

4. Know how to access the exchange for your state.

This is the easy part. Simply go to and click on "What Is the Marketplace for My State?" You won't be actually able to sign up, however, until October 1, 2013. 

  • Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: June 2013,, accessed 16 September 2013.
  • Photo courtesy of massgovernor on Flickr:

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