Sunday is deadline to register for 2016 Affordable Care Act health coverage

People who are uninsured and have not signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act have until this Sunday to enroll. Information and registration for the health insurance marketplace, also known as “Obamacare,” is available online, but Arizonans can also get free assistance with finding the right coverage.

Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, says help is close by in most every city and town in the state.

“It is important that people know there is free, in-person help available across the state,” says Ms. Brown. “There are individuals who can sit down, help people walk through decisions on which insurance plan they wish to choose.”

Ms. Brown says Jan. 31 is the last day to sign up through open enrollment and get coverage for 2016. She says the sign-up assistance is available online at coveraz.org/connector, or by calling a toll-free number, 844-790-4946.

Ms. Brown adds failing to sign up for health insurance by the deadline can end up costing you. There are federal penalties for not being covered.

“If an individual does not get insurance by Jan. 31, it is very likely they could be faced with a fine of $695 for an individual,” she says, “or a couple thousand dollars for a family.”

Ms. Brown says the health-insurance marketplace provides financial assistance for most people to offset the cost of their insurance premiums, based on income and other factors. She says three out of four people in Arizona will end up paying less than $100 a month for coverage.

Report: Smoking can cost more than $1 million over a lifetime

We all know smoking cigarettes is an expensive habit, but have you ever thought about just how much money it costs a person over their lifetime? New research compiled by the online survey company WalletHub determined the average cost to each of America’s 66 million tobacco users is between $24,000 and $50,000 a year, depending on where they live.

Jill Gonzalez, analyst and spokesperson with WalletHub, says over a lifetime, that can add up to more than $1 million.

“A lot of times it’s not something you think about,” says Gonzalez. “Just investing five, six all the way up to $12 a day into the stock market, that’s how much money you could be earning. So, forget the Powerball, this could be a one-stop shop for you, if you just quit smoking.”

Gonzalez says over 50 years of smoking, the average user will spend between $1.2 million and $2.4 million, depending on where they live and purchase their smokes. WalletHub made the calculations based on buying one pack of cigarettes a day, plus health care expenses, lost income and other financial factors associated with smoking.

She says in Arizona, smokers pay a fairly high cost for their habit, compared to those in other states.

“Arizona is on the expensive side. It ranks 36th out of 51 places,” says Gonzalez. “Yearly, people are spending almost $33,000. Price per pack is a lot more expensive so, over time, almost $1.6 million.”