CLEVELAND - As of midnight Oct.1, 2013, you'll be able to get online and on the phone to start comparing and buying health insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
In our continuing coverage called "Understanding Obamacare," we have what you need to know heading into enrollment. We sat down with Kaiser Family Foundation to get some answers. Kaiser is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that's been on top of the effects of Obamacare.
We asked full-time student Josh Friendman from Cleveland State University what he knows about Obamacare.
"Not a whole lot actually," Friedman said. "I just know I'm required to get it and it's going to help me get covered."
He went on to tell us other than some brief information from CSU, he hasn't seen many details about Obamacare.
"Other than me getting a newsletter (from CSU) and just whatever is on CNN and the local news, there's no emphasis or push from the government sending us any kind of information like that," Friedman said.
Jennifer Tolbert is the Director of State Health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. She understands some people might feel a bit overwhelmed with the new, required sign-up process, but reminds people they have two-and-a-half months to enroll without a penalty and six months overall.
"There will be lots of time for consumers to explore the marketplaces, to investigate their options, and understand how much they'll need to pay for coverage and ultimately sign up and enroll in a health plan," Tolbert said.
Tolbert also told us when you do sit down to figure out the best insurance plan for you, you should keep you tax info handy.
"So, people can go back to their prior year tax filing to collect that information or if they've experienced a change over the year or anticipate that their income will be higher of lower in 2014 they can report that income," she said giving an example.
There's also a checklist offered by the Department of Health and Human Services , which is a good guide. It includes things like income, dependents, employer information and so on. (Link to checklist here: http://on.wews.com/1bmReV7 )
As for Friedman, he's preparing.
"I'm going to go ahead and get it for right now. I'm going to take advantage of what they have to offer."
Once again, the online area for the exchange ( www.healthcare.gov ) will be open at midnight. The toll free numbers (800-318-2596 or teletype 855-889-4325) are open for help now and after midnight you can start buying insurance.
As far as local, physical locations offering help, Carmella Rose Health Foundation told us they are working with Asian Services in Action and Cuyahoga Health Access Partnership and they are not ready for the Oct. 1 opening day.
They have some delays in systems and we should check back in about two weeks for their progress.
One other question: Would a government shutdown affect the launch of the exchanges? The best answer so far is "no" because the exchanges are already funded. We'll have to wait and see for sure.