The Affordable Care Act Brings New Benefits, Penalties

There are millions of people in this country who can't afford to seek medical attention because they don't have health insurance. For that reason, the federal government enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and by this time next year, every American will be required to have health insurance.

According to the federal government, the goal of the act is to insure 30 million low-income individuals across the country by 2014. 1.6 million of those people live right here in North Carolina. Lynnette Taylor spoke with one woman living without health insurance and trying to survive.

51-year-old Georgette Easley lives in eastern carolina and spends her days looking for work

"I'm a substitute teacher, a teacher's aid, but that's sporadic," said Easley.

Without a full time job she has no health coverage or benefits so she applied for medicaid.

"I have applied for health care through medicaid, and I got turned down. Then I got sick in November and was hospitalized for 4 days and got a $24,000 bill. That was just the hospital. It wasn't all the other doctors or anesthesiologist and stuff like that," said Easley.

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin oversees the implementation of the new health care measure that will provide 700,000 uninsured people in our state with insurance by next year. 300,000 will get it from the new health care benefits, the other 400 thousand through medicaid expansion if approved.

"There is a vast number of people who are not of medicaid age who have significant questions about health insurance enrollment opportunities," said Goodwin.

Those questions are answered at the state's health care Smart NC call center in Raleigh along with regional offices in New Bern and Asheville. Health insurance professionials and medical staff can answer questions about how to enroll for health insurance , teach you about your options, and your rights all for free.

The federal law requires insurers to provide benefits in 10 categories including basic hospital services, professional services, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorders, and maternity care.

For Easley who's counting the numerous bills it's welcome news.

Since we spoke with Easley she has been approved for medicaid to help pay for her hospital visit.

It's important to note: The new health care act has penalties as well. If you do not apply for insurance, you will be taxed. It comes to about $95 or 1% of your total salary whichever is greater.

Businesses that do not provide health care for employees will also be penalized.

If you have questions about the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect you or if have had claims denied you can call the Smart NC toll free number (800) 546-5664.