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Answers for Arizonans who want to sign up for health insurance

PHOENIX -- Arizonans without employer-provided health insurance can sign up using the new federal marketplace. The new program is a key part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, but many people don't know how it works or how to sign up.

Here are five things you need to know:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declined to set up a state insurance exchange, so people seeking insurance need to use the federal marketplace. Access the federal information at www.healthcare.gov. The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 1 through March 31. People must sign up by Dec. 15 if they want insurance in place by the Jan. 1 effective date.

Users must create an account, including a username and password, before gaining access to plans, providers and premium information. Glitches were common Tuesday as the site was swamped with requests. Experts said to allow a few days or weeks to let the system calm down.

Many Arizonans will be newly eligible for the state's Medicaid Plan, known as AHCCCS. Individuals and families earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line should sign up at healthearizona.org. A person earning below $11,499 a year or a family of four earning below $23,499 will qualify. If necessary, people will be directed to the correct site.

Medicare recipients stop here! The Affordable Care Act doesn't affect Medicare eligibility or coverage. Medicare's regular open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 and is completely separate from the marketplaces.

Arizonans with questions can tap into a host of resources, most notably "navigators" who will help people sign up for coverage. The easiest way to find local help is to email the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers. The federal marketplace also offers telephone help at 800-318-2596.

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