RICHMOND, Va. — The nation is beginning the second year of health coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act with open enrollment starting Saturday. Consumers will be able to apply and enroll for 2015 coverage through health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges. The marketplaces allow users to shop and compare plans based on price and benefits, among other features. Individuals can also find out if they qualify for insurance subsidies or free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid. The open enrollment period ends Feb. 15.

Here are some things to know with the second round of enrollment kicking off in Virginia:

VIRGINIA ENROLLMENT

Virginia chose not to establish its own health insurance marketplace. It’s among the 37 states where the federal government is running the sign-up effort.

During the first enrollment session, which ran from October 2013 through March 2014, federal officials say roughly 216,350 Virginians picked health plans in the new insurance marketplace out of the about 392,340 that are eligible to enroll. Nearly 60 percent of those about to sign up also are eligible for financial assistance for their insurance.

State officials have set a goal to enroll an additional 160,000 Virginians during the latest sign-up period through A Healthy Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s health care plan.

WHO’S GETTING COVERAGE?

Federal data shows that many Virginia residents who have obtained coverage so far are older, though about 39 percent are under age 35. More than half are women, and 82 percent are getting financial help to pay their monthly premiums. About 55 percent of those who selected a plan through the marketplace were white, 22 percent were black, about 18 percent were Asian and about 3 percent were Latino.

BOOSTING SIGN-UPS

Virginia is taking an active role in outreach and consumer education about the health insurance marketplace in an effort to get more people to sign up.

The state received a $9.3 million federal grant in October to hire more than 100 people across the state to help with enrollment. Officials also are partnering with the Virginia Community Healthcare Association and the state network of federally qualified health centers. An additional $4.3 million federal grant is funding outreach work through the Virginia Poverty Law Center and a multimedia campaign being launched this winter.

Improvements also have been made to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services’ coverva.org website, which includes links to healthcare.gov and information about the marketplace. It is also a tool to help people find someone in their own community or nearby to help them enroll in person.

HEALTH PLAN COSTS

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Health Research Institute, the average premium will be around $354 before tax credit subsidies. That’s an increase from 2014 of about 10.2 percent. Premiums vary across the state with some up as little as 2 percent and others up more than 18 percent. Overall, the Virginia markets remain price competitive going into 2015 with carriers being added in some areas, according to a study released this month by the Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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