Community leaders answer questions on Affordable Care Act

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins on October 1st and community leaders are working to answer questions from the 13% of Milwaukee residents who are uninsured.

By 2014, all Americans, with few exceptions, will be required to have some form of health insurance or risk being fined.

"Just awareness that benefits are changing is as important as any aspect of this," said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Milwaukee County has budgeted $360,000 for outreach programs with money going toward training application counselors who are already fielding numerous questions.

"A lot has been computer based -- the application process. Sometimes it's just computer literacy and that type of assistance," said counselor Latrisa Haynes.

Nearly $100,000 will pay for 211 service -- a phone number residents can call to find a plan that fits their particular budget and needs.

Officials say the easiest option for consumers is to visit healthcare.gov.

"It's like shopping on amazon.com for a book or a CD. You'll be presented with a list of 84 qualified, affordable plans right here for this area," said Kathleen Falk, Region 5 Director of U.S. Department of Health.

There have already been a few glitches nationwide -- enrollment for small businesses is delayed until November and Washington lawmakers continue to debate the plan.

"Notwithstanding all the political wars going on over this issue, we are trying to make sure services and health care are delivered to people who need it," said Mayor Tom Barrett.

Open enrollment runs through the end of March, 2014. Health insurance coverage can begin as early as January 1st.