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Deadline to sign up for health care quickly approaching

LAWTON, Okla._It’s heath care enrollment season and the initial deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act is quickly approaching.

The enrollment period opened November 1. Since then, workers at the Lawton Community Health Center have signed up about 100 people for health insurance. Under the law, everyone must have proof of health insurance by January 31, or pay a penalty.

The penalty has more than doubled for the upcoming year. It now stands at $325 per adult. However, for 2016, the penalty will be $695, or 2.5 percent of your annual household income, which ever one is higher. There is also an additional penalty fee per child of $347.50.

With Oklahoma being ranked the second unhealthiest state in America, health officials, like Lynette Wallace are hoping more people come in and sign up.

Wallace says illnesses like diabetes and hypertension often go undiagnosed and untreated for so long that many don't realize they have one until they end up in an emergency room.

"We have people that come in constantly with no insurance and they need things. They need procedures done, they need to be seen, they need operations because they don't have good, quality care they are not being seen by a primary care doctor. They are using the hospital as their primary care doctor," Wallace, a navigator at the Lawton Community Health Center, said.

Wallace says the Affordable Care Act is designed to end that practice with plans ranging between $59 and $200 per month. Those plans are all based on income that will allow you to receive credits toward that cost. Anyone can apply, but not everyone will qualify for the credit. Wallace says she can show her clients what that credit or discount is right away.

"We are going to say ‘okay, you make this much hourly, you work about these many hours a week and so you make this much approximately and you are a family of two.’ We are going to put all your information into the computer and they will say you get about this much credit," Wallace explained.

In order to find a navigator, like Wallace, all you have to do is go to healthcare.gov and click on the "find your local help option." Once you do that, type in your zip code and a list of navigators in your area will pop up. Call any of them and make your appointment.

If you decide to pay the penalty instead, that money is taken directly from your tax returns.

Appointments usually take about an hour. Wallace says the navigator will see the same person as many times needed to help them find the right plan.

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