By Pat Loeb

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Sign up begins, today, for health insurance through the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act (see related story). That means adults who have been unable to get insurance because of cost or pre-existing conditions can get coverage.

Charles Sarazin hasn’t had health insurance since his last steady job, ten years ago. If he got sick?

“A lot of times I just had to go to the emergency room.”

But Sarazin is hopeful that he’ll find a plan he can afford in the marketplace.

“It would make a great bit of difference,” Sazarin says. “It would give me more peace of mind.”

Sarazin is one of more than half-a-million people in our area who may get coverage as early as January first, through the marketplace. Sign up is online or by phone and consumers can get in-person help through non-profit “navigators” or, in Philadelphia, directly from insurer Blue Cross which, as vice president Brian Lobely explains, has a van it’s taking from place to place.

“I think the most important thing is actually getting information in people’s hands,” Lobely says.

Delaware Valley Healthcare Council vice president Pam Clark says the simple act of enrolling will begin to improve their health.

“They are more likely to receive care on a preventative basis and receive wellness service,” Clark says.

Clark and other health advocates are working to make sure all eligible adults sign up.

Take, for example, physician Kemi Awopetu. She’s been unable to get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions and plans to sign up in the marketplace as soon as possible but even she isn’t sure what to expect.

“I’m imagining they would offer the same plans I was trying to apply for,” Awopetu says.

That’s where “navigators” like Kate Kozeniewski come in. She says online sign up at will be easy, “It’ll show you all the plans that are available to you and then it will show you what it will cost.”

Nonetheless, Kozeniewski and other navigators will be walking consumers through the process at Spectrum Health in West Philadelphia.

Sign up continues through March 31st.

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