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Young Georgians face health decisions

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Krystal and Jared Castleman face an important decision about health insurance. Krystal and Jared Castleman face an important decision about health insurance.
COVINGTON, Ga. -

As the open enrollment period begins for mandatory health insurance, will younger people sign up or will they skip it and take the yearly penalty? A lot of Georgians are weighing their options.

Jared and Krystal Castleman are both in their mid-20s. They have just bought a house, have a 3-year old daughter and say that the idea of paying another bill each month bothers them.

"My main thought is: basically I'm being forced to choose whether or not I can eat dinner or have health insurance," Jared Castleman said. "That's really what it boils down to."

Jared repairs factory machinery for a local company that offers insurance, but he said it's hundreds of dollars of months.

"But it's one of those things, where if I could have afforded it, I would have it," he said.

Krystal is a part-time pharmacy technician.

"They don't offer insurance at my job.  Therefore, I would have to get insurance through his job, which is pretty outrageous, at this time," she said. "We really can't afford to add on another bill right now."

But starting October 1, the Castlemans and as many as 1.5 million uninsured Georgians will have six months to find health coverage through the online exchange healthcare.gov or face a yearly tax penalty for not having insurance.

"I feel like I'm an adult. I don't feel like someone should force me to have insurance when it's not beneficial for me," said Jared Castleman.

Their daughter is already covered by PeachCare – Georgia's health care program for uninsured kids living in the state --  and the Castlemans are in their 20s, healthy and almost never see a doctor. They say even a very basic plan -- $100 each a month -- would be a stretch.

"Right now we have just a few hundred dollars a month left to spend on groceries, and to come up with $200 every month -- that's a car payment," said Jared Castleman.

Krystal plans to go to healthcare.gov to look at their options. With their combined salaries, there's a good chance that they qualify for a serious tax break to help them pay for coverage. Since they're under 30, they can choose a much cheaper, "catastrophic" plan  for emergencies.

"I would definitely like to know the co-pays and how all that goes into effect. I would have to do my research.  But catastrophic is something we'd definitely be interested in," said Krystal Castleman.

The Castlemans say they're keeping an open mind.  The sign up period begins on Tuesday and runs through March 31.

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