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Some El Pasoans opting out of mandatory health coverage; will face fines

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- The deadline to enroll in healthcare under the Affordable Care Act is just three days away, but some El Pasoans are opting out of coverage.

"The last time I went into it was about a month ago, but then when I saw that my premium was going to be like $330, I just kind of said I can't afford this, so I decided not to get it," said Isabel Gamez, an El Pasoan who won't be enrolling in health care.

Though Gamez works full-time, health insurance isn't offered at the small business where she works.

"I'm happy that there's a lot of people able to enroll, but I know there's a lot of people like me that work full-time and we weren't expecting the coverage to be that much," Gamez said.

So, she's taking the penalties.

"The fines they can face is 1 percent of their annual income or $95. Whichever is higher," said Veronica Cruz-Montero, an ACA navigator at Project Amistad.

Cruz-Montero said the fines may seem low now, but they won't stay that way.

"For this year, the fine is 1 percent. Next year, it's going to be 2 percent and then the following year it's going to be 2.5 percent," Cruz-Montero said.

Cruz-Montero said it's important people weigh their options carefully.

"I always like to make sure the clients understand the risks that are involved with not having health insurance such as not being able to have access to a primary doctor, a specialist or even hospitals sometimes," Cruz-Montero said.

"It does worry me that something might happen but I've been pretty much on the healthy side so I'm hoping that continues," Gamez said.

If you started the application before the March 31 deadline and didn't finish, you will be granted an extension by the federal government until April 15.