Insurance business busy as healthcare deadline looms

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny
By Brad Denny By Brad Denny
By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

MESA, Ariz. -- December 15th is the deadline to sign up for health insurance if you use the website and need insurance by Jan. 1.

This is the second year for the Affordable Care Act, and insurance brokers say there are more plans and higher penalties if you go without insurance.

"They'll ask you about any insurance changes," a woman said to a couple staring intently at the pages full insurance plans and prices on the computer screen.

Health Insurance Express in Mesa has been busy for two weeks. Much like taxes in the spring for accountants, fall insurance enrollment means a lot of people walking through the door, and owner Alan Leafman spends a lot of time getting answers on the phone.

We met Charlene and Mike Breaston in the store. They are newly retired and trying to bridge the gap until they enroll in Medicare.

"Most people when they do retire pick up part time jobs just to pay their healthcare," Charlene said.

The couple is working with Leafman on two different plans, which complicates things. However, since they are relying primarily on Social Security income, the Affordable Care Act helped them greatly last year.

"I was paying $2,800 a month,” Charlene said. “When we came in with Obamacare, we were down to $700 and something.”

Leafman opened this store knowing people would need help.

"If you're under 30 years old, for example, there's 139 different plans," he said.

He’s also finding people paying higher rates if they stick with the same plan, especially if they rely on government subsidies in the form of tax credits.

"If they have subsidized rates, the subsidies are changing and in most cases we've seen, they're being decreased," Leafman said.

Leafman said the penalties for not having insurance are also going up dramatically to $325 or two percent of your income.

People can still avoid tax penalties by signing up by Feb 15.  After that date, enrollment closes until next fall.