The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 2, 2014

What you need to know about March health deadline

WASHINGTON — Sick of hearing about the health care law?

Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.

But now is the time to tune back in, before it's too late.

The big deadline is coming March 31.

By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

Here's what you need to know about this month's open enrollment countdown:

Already covered? No worries

Most people don't need to do anything. Even before the health care law passed in 2010, more than 8 out of 10 U.S. residents had coverage, usually through their workplace plans or the government's Medicare or Medicaid programs. Some have private policies that meet the law's requirements.

If you're already covered that way, you meet the law's requirements.

Since October, about 4 million people have signed up for private plans through the new state and federal marketplaces, the Obama administration says, although it's not clear how many were already insured elsewhere. In addition, many poor adults now have Medicaid coverage for the first time through expansions of the program in about half the states.

President Barack Obama is urging people who have coverage to help any uninsured friends and relatives get signed up.

Need coverage? It's crunch time

Chances are you'll hear more reminders about health care this month. The push is on to reach millions of uninsured people.

The administration, insurers, medical associations and nonprofit groups are teaming up with volunteers to get the word out and guide people through the sometimes-rocky enrollment process. They plan special events at colleges, libraries, churches and work sites.

Singing cats, dogs, parrots — even a goldfish — are promoting the message in TV and online spots from the Ad Council.

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