Unless they have gained insurance through employers or on their own, a large number of Carroll residents still need to sign up for insurance before the Feb. 15 deadline.

Last year, 5,692 Carroll residents qualified for health insurance plans or Medicaid insurance through the Maryland health Connection, according to representatives from Healthy Howard, the connector organization that facilitates enrollment of Carroll residents into the Maryland Health Exchange. As of last week, only 4,334 people had registered.

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Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone has to have insurance. Some people get it through their employers. Others find it on their own. Others qualify through Medicare or Medicaid. Many others, however, use the state Health Exchange as their source for getting insurance.

For those who don't have insurance for at least nine months of the year will face penalties when it comes time to do their taxes. This year, those who didn't meet the insurance requirement for 2014 will face a penalty of $95 per adult or 1 percent of their annual household income. Next January when folks are doing their taxes, the penalty for not having insurance in 2015 will increase to $325 per adult or 2 percent of the annual household income.

The Affordable Care Act has put insurance in reach of more people. Many people are far better off today because of it. But like most far-reaching laws, it has positive and negative aspects associated with it. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is still the law, and failure to comply with laws usually comes with some form of consequence.

For those who have been putting off getting insurance, the deadline of Feb. 15 is fast approaching.

You can get more information on various plans and calculate costs at marylandhealthconnection.gov. A couple of events remain this week for those needing help, including an enrollment event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Eldersburg Branch of the Carroll County Public Library, and a late-night 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. event at the Denny's restaurant at 400 Englar Road in Westminster.

Those signing up need to make sure that they have the proper documents with them, so it is a good idea to either go to the website or call 855-642-8572 to find out everything you need.

But time is running out. There's only a week left to make sure that your insurance for this year is in place.

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