ELSMERE, Ky. -- Life for Natalie Gordon hasn't been easy.
She's an office manager for a diet clinic and makes about $25,000 a year. She and her husband, Ladell, both have severe medical conditions and can't afford health insurance.
But the Elsmere woman said Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act has lifted a weight from her shoulders.
“I have an extra valve in my heart and blood flows backwards through it,” Gordon said. “I've either been denied or asked to pay outrageous premiums that I cannot afford."
There are 54,000 people in Northern Kentucky without health insurance -- that's about 13 out of every 100 residents.
With the early stages of the Affordable Care Act being implemented Tuesday, many residents will use Kynect.ky.gov to purchase coverage.
Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission officials said more than 1,000 people signed up for health insurance by mid-morning Tuesday.
Thousands of others inquired if they were covered and what type of plan they could buy.
Gordon says that her financial woes are even worse because her niece lives in her home.
But, she's her niece is the lucky one because she is covered by Medicaid.
“If me and my husband get sick, we have to wait it out and if it gets severe enough -- go to the emergency room," Gordon said.
That's a reality Gordon calls unsettling and downright scary.
"It could kill me -- and I live with that fear every day,” she said.
Florence Tandy runs the Northern Kentucky community action commission and says Gordon’s story is one that’s told too often with disastrous financial implications.
"Either they don't get care and they die from it or they get care and then the bills pile up and they can't afford to pay them and they're forced into bankruptcy," Tandy said.
However, Gordon's outlook changed Tuesday as she began exploring her options under the Affordable Care Act.
"Before, I'd have to pay upwards of 15 percent of my income and now I will only have to pay up to six percent of my income. So, it's a big difference,” Gordon said.
Gordon will now be able to see a cardiologist once a year and her husband can get treatments that let him work more often.
“It will take a lot of my worries away because I don't have to wonder every day if I'm going to wake up or am I going to wake up, honestly."
The signups run for six months and the policies that are purchased now don't take effect until Jan. 1.