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The Important Decision You Need to Make This Month

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It’s easy to think you don’t really need health insurance, especially if you’re young, don’t have any chronic medical conditions, and are one of those people that just never seems to get sick. But anyone can wipe out on a patch of ice and break a leg (that can run you $7,500) or get a bad virus and need to be hospitalized (three days can cost a startling $30,000). So yeah, you do need it. Plus, you’ll get access to things like free preventive care (like checkups and pap smears), birth control, and you'll pay less the next time you think that mole on your shoulder might be something to worry about.

But you only get those benefits if you actually enroll! Open enrollment for plans under the Affordable Care Act starts on Saturday and runs through December 15th. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure it out. (And remember, if you got coverage for 2014, you need to pick a new plan or reenroll to stay covered in 2015.)

Worried about the cost? The non-profit Enroll America found that last year, 63 percent of uninsured adults didn’t even try looking into coverage, and the majority of those people cited affordability as the reason. But if you make under a certain income, you may qualify for lower coverage costs. Plus, the fines for not having coverage are going (way) up: If you didn’t have coverage this year (2014), you’ll be fined either 1 percent of your household income or $95 per person (whichever is higher) when you pay your taxes this coming April. But if you don’t get coverage for 2015, the fine will be 2 percent of your income or $325 per person. (If you're trying to slim down, save money and cash with these tips.)

Buying health insurance can seem like an intimidating process (and about as fun as getting your teeth cleaned), but healthcare.gov lays out all the steps you need to take and has a thorough FAQ section. Just keep your eye on the prize: covered doctor visits, free preventive care, avoiding the fine, and peace of mind knowing that a medical emergency won’t wipe out your bank account.

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