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NORTHEAST Miss. (WCBI)- Noxubee General hospital social worker Katherine Mickens sees uninsured patients walk through the door all the time.

“I say we would see about 20 to 25. That’s on a daily average. They’re asking, ‘what can I do?’ I need this done. Where can I go?” said Mickens.

Katherine is thrilled that the new health insurance marketplace coverage will begin October 1st.

“This will give people the opportunity to become, I guess secure as far as going to the doctor and not being turned down because of the fact that they don’t have insurance,” said Mickens.

The health insurance marketplace is federally mandated and provides options for millions of people who don’t have job-based coverage or can’t afford their own plan.The coverage isn’t free, but it gives people a chance to find and compare private health insurance options.

” This exchange is for those who have coverage that’s not offered through their employer. For those that are uninsured or have health conditions that would otherwise deter them from getting a standard policy, they’ll be issued the same policy, they’ll be issued the same rates as everybody else,” said James Galloway, Manager of GCM Insurance.

Galloway says the insurance marketplace will help thousands of Mississippians who need medical treatment, but worry about how they can afford it. But there’s a catch. Americans will now have a legal obligation to get covered and they will face fines if they choose not to purchase a plan.

“The penalties for not purchasing insurance are not very punitive. In the 1st year they’re $95 and for young people who are uninsured right now whose premiums might be $300 a month, as a result, they might opt for the penalty of $95 a year instead of buying insurance,” said Galloway.

Experts believe with subsidized private insurance through the new markets, combined with the expansion of medicaid in some states, the number of uninsured Americans could be reduced by one-fourth or more next year.

Open enrollment for the marketplace begins October 1st and coverage will begin as early as January.

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