Three weeks left to sign up for health care or pay penalty

Three weeks left to sign up for health care or pay penalty »Play Video

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- If you still don't have health care under the Affordable Care Act, you must sign up in the next three weeks, or you could lose your chance to sign up for the rest of the year. KEPR spoke with newly enrolled Obamacare customers about their troubles and successes.

Six years ago, Susan Stevenson says she almost died. Today, she blames that close call on being uninsured.

"I needed emergency surgery to save my life, and it took three months to get it approved, so I'm lucky to have lived through that," she said.

In the meantime, Susan was taking up to 20 blood pressure pills a day.

"All you can do is wait, and hope that you don't have a stroke."

She lived with that fear for a decade.

"No insurance at all, never."

Which is why Susan was an early adopter of Obamacare.

"I was real excited. I finally get to have insurance, and it's something I can afford now," said Stevenson.

It was a similar story for Cecila Rocha. She was uninsured for seven years. Both Cecila and Susan attempted to sign up on their own, but both struggled. After getting free help from a health care agent, they found plans that worked for them.

"It's not as bad as people think. I mean, if you find the right person to help you, as far as finding a plan, as far as finding what's best gonna suit you, that's the way to go, because I was gonna go for the penalty, but I'm so glad I didn't," said Rocha.

But the experts know there are issues, especially with signing up and paying. So far, nearly 450,000 people have signed up for Obamacare through Washington Healthplanfinder in our state. About three times that number have shown interest.

You have about three weeks left to sign up before you will be forced to pay a penalty. Coverage also won't be available for the rest of 2014 after the March 31st deadline. Cecila and Susan are glad they opted in.

"It's a huge, huge difference," said Rocha.

"Now I have insurance. If I need emergency surgery, I'm gonna get it," said Stevenson.

You can sign up here.

If you call for help, the average wait time is just under an hour.