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HealthCare.gov is the federal government's main website for information about the new health insurance options, including enrollment in new plans available starting in 2014. Below is more information about specific dates and places people can go to get further assistance navigating the changes from the Affordable Care Act.

Important Dates

March 31 - Deadline for people to file applications for health insurance and avoid paying a penalty for that year. People who begin an application before that date but don't complete it will be given an extension into mid-April.

New insurance questions

Q: What's the penalty for not having insurance before the deadline?
A: Adults pay $97 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater. The penalty increases each year you don't have insurance. You'll also still have to pay 100 percent of your health costs.

Q: What if I don't make enough money to file taxes?
A: You will not have to pay any penalty for not having insurance. There are other exemptions to the penalty, found here.

Q: Can I figure out how much my insurance might cost before signing up?
A: The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation has an online calculator that can help give you an idea of how much you might pay for insurance, and what subsidies you could qualify for.

Accessing the new Marketplaces

The Marketplaces will be primarily online, but people can get information over the phone and enroll by mail as well after Oct. 1, 2013.

For Louisiana residents, the federal government is running the Marketplace because the state chose not to create its own website. Click here to find out how to compare plans and enroll in health insurance plans.

For more information by phone about Marketplaces - Call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)

Who can buy insurance on the new Marketplaces

The Marketplace is designed for people who don't already receive insurance through their employer or another program such as Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA to compare plans and buy coverage. Assistance is available for people who fall under certain income levels, and plans come in four tiers with varying costs and deductibles: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

If you already have insurance through an employer, you likely won't need the new Marketplaces at all.

To compare what's offered in the four plan tiers, click here.

For more information about what you need to get ready to apply, click here.

For more information about assistance, click here.

Small business information

The new law requires some businesses, those with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees, to provide health insurance for employees. It also gives tax incentives in certain cases for businesses to provide health insurance, even if they're not required to.

The federal government's health care website has a specific section answering questions about how small businesses are affected.

Local application assistance

Local insurance agents should have information to help people apply for health insurance using the new 

The federal government gave out grants to states to hire Navigators, who are people trained to help local residents answer questions about the new Marketplaces and enroll in the program.

Baton Rouge - Area Agency on Aging
225-922-2525 (main)
1 800-833-9883 (toll free)

Lake Charles - Eligibility Screening Services
800-353-1380 (main)

Shreveport - Martin Luther King Health Center
318-227-2912 (main)
318-227-2912 Ext6 Spanish (Español) 

Ruston - Eligibility Screening Services
800-353-1380 (main)

New Orleans - St. Thomas Community Health Center
504-529-5558 (main)

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