Kevin Teer says, "I've been given the impression that if I don't get insurance, I'll get fined," he said. "I look at it as I'm being forced to do what I should be doing anyway."
If people do not sign up, they can be fined about $100. The second year, the fine goes up to more than $300.
Teer said he now earns "what I was making at 25. My wife is pretty much in the same boat. We're both making half what we made before the recession."
He said their annual income is now about $33,000.
According to a "subsidy calculator" on the Kaiser Family Foundation website, only an estimate, Teer's insurance bill on the New Jersey exchange would be $5,964. But he would receive a government subsidy of $4,835 on his tax return, meaning he would pay only $1,129 a year.
Sidney Stanton, 24, is an art designer with a job but no health insurance. He was sitting on a park bench in Washington Square eating lunch on a beautiful afternoon with his friend Netta Simmons.
He rarely gets sick, but guessed that if he did, he'd go to a public health clinic.
The only thing he'd heard about the Affordable Care Act was this: "My mom, she was just telling me. By next year people who don't have health insurance, they'll be fined."
He was, like so many young people, living his life, not tuned in to health reform. "It's a good thing," he said of the mandate, and the idea that everyone will now have coverage. "But about being fined, I don't think that's a good thing."
Robin Allen, 34, is a barista in a Center City coffee shop. She makes about $18,000. She hasn't had health insurance in more than a decade, since finishing college.
What happens when she gets sick? "I don't."
She once went to the ER for an emergency and the bill was $2,000. She's still in discussion with the hospital about getting charity care or a reduced rate.
She has heard about the Affordable Care Act.
"It's hard to understand how it's really going to affect me," she said. "You hear so many different things from so many different people."
She knew about the exchanges, but said she expected implementation "to be a rough transition, with so many people fighting it so hard, and so many people who don't understand it.
"I hope it actually works," she added. "I'm going to do it and only time will tell."
Kristie Glazer, 36, and Dave Glazer, 34, of Center City, run their own family business, Philly Pet Care, offering day care and daily walks for dogs.
Kristie suffers from a preexisting heart condition and pays $530 a month for insurance.
Her husband and son are on their own plan, paying $275 a month. The couple attended a meeting last week at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia to learn more about the new exchanges.
Said David: "We're hoping we can all get on one family plan together, maybe save couple hundred a month on premiums."
John Beaudry, 40, of South Philadelphia, lost his job loading ships two years ago. But he has never had insurance as an adult.
He's on unemployment now.
He opposes the Affordable Care Act. "I hope I don't get hurt," he said, "but I'm not paying for something I don't want.
"If I want to get health insurance, it should be up to me, not forced down my throat."
He was reconciled to a life without good coverage.
"If I need a transplant, I know I'm screwed," he said. "I know that. I've already accepted it."
Chris Funari, 30, of South Philadelphia, works in his family's insurance adjuster business. He took over paying for his insurance from his parents a few years ago.
First it was $356 a month, and up and up it went.
He has changed plans a few times, and now pays only $114, although to see his chiropractor costs him $50 each visit. He has a $3,000 cap per year on deductibles, and a $1,500 deductible for an emergency room visit.
He had not heard about the exchanges, but said he would shop there for a better deal this week.
Susan Mull, 60, from outside Lancaster, has lived with HIV for 21 years, and has been without health insurance for 13.
She has been able to get her HIV medications through drug assistance programs. She has followed the law closely and can't wait to shop on the exchange.
Mull is a substitute teacher. She and her husband, who is self-employed and also without insurance, earn $22,000 a year and believe they will be eligible for insurance and a subsidy.
"It's going to change everything," she said.