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How the Affordable Care Act will affect you: Ill. Dep. Gov. Cristal Thomas

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The countdown is on to the arrival of the Affordable Care Act. FOX 32 News is doing a series of reports to explain how it will impact you and your family, when it takes effect on Oct. 1, 2013.

Illinois officials are working to create a "culture of coverage" in the state. Illinois Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas said this is something Governor Quinn has been trying to do for residents for a long time.

What are the deadlines I am hearing about?

The online marketplace where people will shop for health insurance opens Oct. 1, 2013. This is where they can begin to compare plans and think about the best fit for their family before enrollment. To research right now, visit HealthCare.gov.

The state will open call centers across Illinois. They've partnered with 44 organizations to provide in-person counseling for residents who have questions about how they should proceed or aren't comfortable working online.

The second important date is Dec. 15, 2013. Those who want their health care coverage to begin on the first possible day (Jan. 1, 2014) must enroll by Dec. 15. If they do not, coverage will begin after Jan. 1.

Enrollment for coverage starting Jan. 1 will run from Oct. 5, 2013 - Dec. 15, 2013. Open enrollment will run from Oct. 5, 2013 - March 31, 2014.

Who is affected by the Affordable Care Act?

Thomas said the state wants everyone to have the benefit, the financial protection and the peace of mind health insurance can bring. But the marketplace that opens Oct. 1 is primarily for those who do not have health care coverage.

The state estimates there are about one million people currently without coverage. Thomas said they expect around 300,000 people who will enroll in the first year.

She said if you had it and lost your job and insurance, this is for you. If you've been locked out of the insurance market before, you'll be able to go now and find something because there will be something for everyone.

What are the hidden gems in the act which can help people who already have coverage?

There will be financial assistance to help make premiums affordable. Thomas said if they've been locked out of the system before or refused coverage because of pre-existing conditions, which will not happen moving forward.

For those who already have health insurance, Thomas the act still benefits them because it requires insurers to cover things they haven't before – like providing preventive services without any out-of-pocket costs.

RESOURCES:

Kaiser Family Foundation: Health policy research, analysis, polling, facts, data and journalism

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Affordable Care Act

Official Website for the State of Illinois: Health Care reform in Illinois and what it means to you

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