RICHMOND -- A Richmond-based group has received a grant to hire and train navigators who can help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act, which is primarily for the uninsured and under-insured to get healthcare insurance.

Jill Hanken is an attorney with the group, Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Hanken says be prepared to provide some basic information to see if you qualify for a premium tax credit to help you afford a plan.

Open enrollment begins October 1 and goes until March 31. Coverage begins January 1, 2014.

'People shouldn't feel like they have to rush in on October 1 to get this done. So, you do have time. There will be ways to apply for coverage online through the federal website which is You can apply online and you would be providing information about your household size, income and how you file your taxes,' says Hanken.

Hanken warns that many Virginians will discover they won't qualify for a premium tax credit because the state chose not to expand Medicaid to help more people afford coverage.

'So, we're going to have a situation where we have very low-income people currently eligible for Medicaid, folks who have an income above 100 percent of the poverty, being eligible for premium tax credits for the marketplace but all the folks in the middle, who could have gotten coverage with a Medicaid expansion, for the time being, will be left uninsured,' Hanken explained.

Patrick Robbins, 26, of Chesapeake is one of those people. He no longer qualifies to be covered under his mother's plan because 26 is the cut-off age. Even though he's unemployed, as a young, single adult, he also doesn't qualify for Medicaid.

Robbins would be covered under an expansion. Hanken says Robbins could still buy a plan on the marketplace but wouldn't get a tax credit. She says the catastrophic plan might be best for him.

'There will be catastrophic plans for young people which carry a low-cost premium but a very, very high deductible before a lot of health services kick in - although you can get certain preventive services at the front end.'

Hanken says it's also possible that if Robbins' mother still declares him as a dependent they could go together to the marketplace as a family of two and combine their incomes together to see whether they could qualify for a tax credit.

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