TAMPA - Jodi Ray is the Project Director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at USF's college of public health. Her job right now - make sure Florida consumers understand how to access and use The Affordable Care Act market place.
Step one for everyone: log on to healthcare.gov. "And go ahead and set up an account. Anyone can do that right now. It will also allow them to start getting updated information. They can start looking at what are some of the covered benefits."
Write down a list of the questions you have about the process or your medical needs. Ray says, "They can also chat with someone live with Health and Human Services and get a lot of questions answered right there on the spot."
Healthcare-dot-gov is also the same place you will go October first when the marketplace officially opens. You can shop on line, by phone, by fax or in person.
Who is eligible to shop? Ray says, "The uninsured, people who have been paying a lot of money for insurance, people who have insurance that doesn't really cover essential benefits."
That includes young adults without insurance and people in jobs who can't afford the insurance they are offered by employers, especially Florida's working poor.
Subsidies – or financial help - will be available for those making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual that's about 44 thousand a year and for a family of four it's around 94 thousand a year - according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Other people can apply for the market, but these are the people who will qualify for subsidies."
Your eligibility for those subsidies depends on your household income. That's determined by the expected income in 2014 of the taxpayer, spouse and the dependents and it will be verified by documentation from your most recent tax return.
Once the marketplace opens, you'll be able to choose between four levels of coverage: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. What do they cover? "At a minimum ambulatory services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and new born care, mental health, prescription drugs, rehab services, lab services, pediatrics services, it's pretty comprehensive."
Still confused? You can get someone to help you with the application in person.
They're called navigators. "What the navigator's role is is to make sure each option presented to them is clear so when they're making a choice they're not confused about what the option is that best suits them or them and their families."
Navigators will be located throughout the counties. They are not getting paid commission to sell policies and they don't charge consumers for their services.
You can visit http://www.abcactionnews.com/subindex/news/health to find information on how to setup an appointment.
Also check www.healthcare.gov
Call 1-800-318-2596 for help over the phone.