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Deadline Monday for health care sign-ups
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With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act closing next Monday, there is not much time left to sign up for health insurance if you are not already covered.

According to the 2012 national census, 15 percent of Americans are still without health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010, Americans who can "reasonably afford care" are required to sign up for it, according to the law.

The mandatory coverage can be waved, however, for reasons including financial hardship or religious beliefs.

Also, under the law's "hardship exemption," customers whose plans were nullified by the law are eligible to buy "catastrophic" coverage policies, which have lower premiums and higher deductibles than other plans that comply with the law, according to the Affordable Care Act's site.

Finally, you are not required to be covered if buying health insurance poses a severe economic hardship, in which premiums are greater than 8 percent of your income.

For those who are not exempt and are unable to show proof of coverage that complies with the law, a tax penalty withheld from your tax refund will be imposed. The penalty for this year begins at 1 percent of your income, or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in a household, whichever is greater.

For local help with compliance or signing up for health care, contact the University of Georgia Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 424-6335 or by email at Or visit