Beginning next year most people in America will be required to have health insurance as part of the new federal Affordable Care Act health care law -- and for good reason.
"You never know when that catastrophic type of event might happen. Whether you're 25 years old or 55 years old, you can be in a car accident tomorrow. I think it's really important that you have coverage just in case," said John Hedberg, Blue Shield of California.
But if you already have insurance and got it before March 2010 through your employer, your spouse's employer, Medicare, Medicaid, or a veterans health program, nothing changes since you are already covered. You are also off the hook from buying any health insurance if you're an undocumented immigrant, a prisoner, a member of some religious groups, or a Native American subject to the sovereign laws of your tribe.
But if you bought insurance after March 2010 or you don't have any health insurance at all and want to get it by the deadline, which is January 1, 2014, then you will be able to buy it through a new marketplace called Covered California.
"There's about 5.3 million Californians that can enroll through Covered California. About half of them are going to get a financial subsidy, premium assistance to help them pay for health care," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.
The amount of any financial assistance will be determined on a sliding scale based on your income. So the lower your income, the more financial help you may receive. And that help comes in one of two ways.
"One is the tax credit, which reduces their premium -- it's premium assistance -- and the other is cost-sharing -- reducing what they're spending out of pocket. Those are two ways where helping people make care affordable," said Lee.
Later this week Eyewitness News will show you how to calculate how much financial assistance you may be able to qualify for.
Wednesday night we'll explain the basics of the plan, how you can sign up and what the penalty will be if you don't have health insurance.