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Advocates: Financial Assistance Available for Health Exchange Plans

With less than two weeks until Pennsylvania's online health insurance marketplace opens to the public, advocates are trying to spread the word about its offerings.

For people who feel the slightest pecuniary pinch and don't have significant health coverage, the soon-to-launch state exchange offers a chance to shop at a discount.

Financial assistance will be available to some purchasing health care plans through the marketplace opening Oct. 1, allowing those individuals to greatly reduce the percentage of their income spent on coverage.

FamiliesUSA, which bills itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit, says the assistance can help those who don't have comprehensive and affordable coverage through their employer or a government program.

Policy Director Kathleen Stoll estimates nearly 900,000 Pennsylvanians are eligible.

"Basically, the financial help in Pennsylvania is available to people with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level," she said.

That means those who qualify are people making between roughly $11,000 and $46,000 a year, or families with an annual income of between roughly $24,000 dollars and $94,000 dollars.

The assistance comes in the form of a premium tax credit.

"But it doesn't work like your usual tax credit," Stoll said.

It can be advanced, she said, "which means that you get it when you buy the insurance and you don't have to wait until April to get reimbursed when you file your taxes. And importantly, it's refundable, which means that even if you don't pay any taxes, you still get the dollars to pay for health insurance."