By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — You have six months to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if you don’t get coverage from an employer.

That’s plenty of time to shop around and compare plan. But right now it’s all very new, and many people have questions.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports.

Malik Jamal is a 30-year-old entrepreneur. Becasue he’s self-employed he already decided to buy insurance from the marketplace. He knows when to enroll, but his question is: When does the coverage take effect?

Answer: If your application is completed by Dec. 15, your coverage becomes effective Jan. 1.

At 30, Randy Goldstein is married, works in e-commerce and is covered under his company’s insurance.

“If I lose my job, how does the Affordable Care Act help me?” he asks.

If you lose your job and your insurance, you will qualify for the Affordable Care Act. Even if you lose your job after the enrollment period ends, March 31, you can still enroll. In fact, any change in status, loss of job, new birth or marriage allows you to buy insurance from the marketplace.

Retiree Mary McGaphil is on her husband’s health insurance plan. But if he loses his job she wonders if she can buy a “catastrophic” healthcare package.

That plan is only for people under 30. It’s considered “safety net” coverage in case of an accident or serious illness and comes with a very high deductible.

Lydia McPeak wonders if coverage will include hospitalization or just clinic care.

Answer: All plans have to cover 10 essentials, including hospitalization.

Remember, just because enrollment starts Oct. 1, that doesn’t mean you have to make your decision that day. Open enrollment lasts for six months.

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