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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins on Oct. 1. It's the new federal law mandating health care coverage for nearly everyone.

It means that people who are uninsured will need to buy insurance through state-run exchanges -- or face a penalty from the government. But many worry they won't be able to afford either the insurance, or the penalty.

Michele Maro recently told 10 News she was worried about both. She does have a job, but the call center where she works will be shut down next year.

"I've worked since I was 15, never been unemployed," said Maro. "And then in the past four years, I've got two unemployments."

Even now, while she's working, Maro doesn't have health insurance. Her company got rid of its HMO last year and Maro couldn't afford to buy insurance on her own.

"I've never not had insurance. This is the first time I've ever been in this situation," said Maro. "It's scary because I'm getting older and if something goes wrong, if I trip and fall and break an arm, a hospital bill can be thousands of dollars."

Under the Affordable Care Act, Maro and others like her could get help paying for insurance from the federal government.Anyone who's living at the poverty level ($11,500 for individuals or $23,550 for a family of four) to four times the poverty level ($46,000 for individuals, $94,200 for family) will qualify for some federal tax subsidies.

"Depending on the family's income, will depend on what kind of help they get from the federal government in paying for the health coverage that they get," said Jodi Ray from USF's College of Public Health.

The Kasier Family Foundationestimates that 48% of Americans who need to buy health insurance in the marketplace will get some sort of subsidy. The Foundation estimates theaverage subsidy will be $2,672 for individuals and $5,578 for family.

Healthcare 411 - Your source for Affordable Care Act info:

WTSP 10 News is spending the week answering questions on healthcare as we prepare for October 1st, and the launch of the Health Insurance Market Place.

Click here for the Healthcare 411 homepage

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