Covered California: Insurance enrollment begins

LOS ANGELES Covered California: What you need to know

This is the biggest change to the nation's health care system since Medicare and Medicaid became law in 1965.

Americans must sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2014. Customers have until the end of March to sign up in order to avoid tax penalties; otherwise, you won't be able to get insurance by 2015 and will be fined 1 percent of your annual income or $95.

Officials do not expect a wave of applications immediately because comparing the plans and filling out the application will be time-consuming.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the one question people are asking is what health care will cost them. For the first time, the factors that influence the cost have changed.

"It's not based on your health condition. It's not based on whether you smoke. It's not based on a whole range of factors that up until now determined your ability to get health care and what it costs. It's based on how old you are, your income and where you live," Lee said.

The cost for each individual and family is going to vary. You can go to the Covered California website at to get answers and figure out just how much it is going to cost you. Just click on the "Shop and Compare Tool" under the resources tab at the top of the page.

Starting January 1, all health plans will have to cover more than 20 preventive health services for women including breast cancer genetic test counseling for high-risk women, anemia screening, mammography, domestic-violence screening and "well woman" visits.

For children, insurance must cover screenings for autism, depression, hearing and oral health, to name a few.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Covered California: What you need to know
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