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Interest in health care coverage accelerates

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HealthCare.gov had 8.7 million visits in the past week, with 2 million this past weekend.

The deadline to sign up for a health-care plan without risking a penalty is March 31 2014.

The penalty in 2014 is calculated one of 2 ways. You’ll pay whichever of these amounts is higher:

1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average yearly premium for a bronze plan.

$95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

The way the penalty is calculated, a single adult with household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above $19,650 would pay an amount based on the 1 percent rate. (If income is below $10,150, no penalty is owed.)

The penalty increases every year. In 2015 it’s 2% of income or $325 per person. In 2016 and later years it’s 2.5% of income or $695 per person. After that it's adjusted for inflation.

If you’re uninsured for just part of the year, 1/12 of the yearly penalty applies to each month you’re uninsured. If you’re uninsured for less than 3 months, you don’t have to make a payment.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has sent over 65,000 text messages the past week to people who have started the enrollment process but not completed it, reminding them what they need to do to finish by the March 31 deadline.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides premium subsidies to low and middle income people who buy insurance on their own through new health insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges).

With subsidies provided by the law, a 30-year-old with $20,000 in income might pay as little as $44 per month in premiums – less than the cost of a monthly visit to Starbucks for Oprah's Chai. But the same individual, if earning a higher income and being a bit older, could owe $250 or more per month in premium payments.

Polls show most Americans would prefer to see Obamacare changed. In a March survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Americans dislike this law, but 59 percent wanted it retained or improved.

If Republicans seize the Senate from Democrats, Obama may be forced to compromise on key aspects of the law, including requirements that most individuals obtain coverage and that employers with 50 or more workers offer health coverage, two of its most unpopular provisions.

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