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Obamacare confusion remains, enrollment begins

Althea Chang

Enrollment in health care plans under Obamacare starts Tuesday, but some consumers still seem confused about the coverage even as they could face fines if they don't sign up.

Close to 75 percent of Americans are somewhat worried that they'll have to pay more for their health care or insurance, according to a survey conducted by NBC and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But under the Affordable Care Act mandates for health insurance, consumers will face a fine of $95 per year or 1 percent of annual income in 2014 if they don't have health care coverage. By 2016, fines will jump to either $695 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater, noted Carter Price, researcher and mathematician at the Rand Corporation.

"The fine is cheaper than the coverage, but when you buy insurance you're getting something for the money," said Carter Price, researcher at the Rand Corporation.

Consumers paying more than 9.5 percent of their incomes for health coverage are eligible for government subsidies to help pay health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

But the overall impact of Obamacare on health insurers themselves is likely to be mixed, according to Price.

"Essentially there will be more people enrolled, and so they'll have more customers," Price told "Big Data Download."

But consumers with medical conditions could be the first to sign up for health plans and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, which could mean more financial risk to insurers in the near term, Price said. Over time, however, that risk will level out a bit as consumers who don't need insurance as urgently enroll in insurance plans, Price said.

--By Althea Chang

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