Annual checkups are covered for free by all qualifying insurance plans. Photo via Pixabay

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are you don’t have health insurance, even though you need it to stay safe and avoid tax penalties.

The good news is that open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, begins Sunday.

You’ll have through Dec. 15 to examine the 2016 plans and enroll through Covered California, which administers the act in this state. Under the law, you must be covered by insurance beginning Jan. 1 to avoid a tax penalty.

Covered California and other public insurance marketplaces are for those who don’t have health insurance through a job, under a parent’s plan, or under Medicare for older individuals.

Government statistics show that 8 out of 10 people who enrolled in a health insurance plan through the public marketplaces qualified for financial help, with most people paying $75 or less per month.

If you don’t have coverage in 2016, you’ll pay a penalty of either 2.5 percent of your income, or $695 per adult, whichever is higher. It’s typically less expensive to enroll than the pay the penalty — far less expensive if you have a major medical emergency.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.