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Deadline looming to sign up for health insurance

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- It's crunch time to sign up for health insurance.

Local health navigator ACR Health has signed up 1,400 people in the Mohawk Valley. They hope to enroll many more before April 1.

"Oneida County has a high rate of uninsured individuals, most of Central New York does, Onondoga, Oneida, the whole Mohawk Valley. There are a lot of people here without insurance," said Steve Wood, a community health coordinator for ACR Health.

A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that six in ten uninsured people are unaware of the looming deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. It also determined that half of the uninsured plan to stay uninsured.

But, if you aren't enrolled before April 1, you'll face a penalty on your 2015 taxes: $95 per person or one percent of your income, whichever is more. ACR Health says paying for insurance could save you money.

For example, if you have insurance and you break your ankle, your estimated out-of-pocket expense is $480. But, if you don't have insurance you would pay about four times that cost.

"The other benefit of having insurance is now you can see a doctor and get tested for all kinds of things, have a physical, go to the dentist, all the things that you've been putting off because it's too expensive," said Wood.

Health insurance does more than protect you. It benefits the entire system.

"Uninsured people overwhelmingly use emergency rooms. That's the highest cost health care you can seek is in an emergency room and if you can't pay your emergency room bill, who pays for that? We do. The tax payers pay for that," said Wood.

If you experience something called a qualifying event, such as a divorce, birth of a child, death of a primary insurance holder or loss of a job, you will be able to enroll after April 1. Otherwise, enrollment is closed until Nov. 15, and your insurance won't kick in until Jan. 1, 2015.

To get in touch with one of these navigators for help, you can call one of two numbers.

Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network: (315) 732-4657.

ACR Health: (315) 475-2430.

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