Here’s What You Need to Know About the Affordable Care Act

The first big test of the Affordable Care Act starts on October 1, when the online health insurance marketplaces, the centerpiece of President Obama’s health-care law, are scheduled to open for business. Sign-ups will begin on October 1 and continue through March 2014, with coverage to begin on January 1, 2014.

If, after all of the controversy surrounding “Obamacare,” including its role in the government shutdown, you still have questions about the law, you’re not alone.

Here’s what you need to know:

Is the Affordable Care Act Actually Affordable?

According to The New York Times:

That probably depends a lot on patients’ needs, where they live and — importantly — their preconceptions of what health insurance is supposed to do, experts say. The insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, will sell four different levels of plan — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — with the more expensive plans offering the most extensive benefits. And while premiums for the low-end plans may be relatively cheap, they still require significant out-of-pocket payments, in the form of co-payments and deductibles that could add up to more than $6,000 a year.

A Few Facts About the Affordable Care Act:

*  Nearly half of Americans who have individual insurance plans will receive assistance averaging $2,672 to purchase plans on the Obamacare marketplace.

*  People can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions like cancer.

*  Insurance companies will be required to spend 80% of premium dollars on health care. If they don’t, they’ll be forced to give consumers a refund to make up the difference.

*  Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old.

*  Small business owners will receive tax credits so they can afford to offer quality health care to their employees.

*  There will be no more lifetime insurance caps, and families will no longer go bankrupt just because they get sick.

So far, so good, right?

All About Exchanges

An exchange is a website designed to make it easy for people to find health coverage. Each state will have one. Some states have their own exchange, and the rest are either partnering with the federal government or relying on the federal government to operate their exchanges. To find the correct site, go to

Exchanges are designed for the uninsured, people who buy their own coverage and those whose employer-provided coverage is too expensive or lacks important benefits. However, most workers at bigger companies that provide health coverage won’t use them.

All plans will offer “essential benefits” that include hospitalization, emergency care, maternity and pediatric care, mental-health care and prescription drug coverage. Plans must cover preventive care — including flu shots, routine vaccinations and mammograms — at no cost.

You can create an online account at or with your state-run exchange. The exchange will display a list of health plans, their premiums and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments. Or, if you prefer, you can fill out a paper application and apply over the phone.

If you don’t buy insurance by January, you will face a penalty of $95, or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater, for the first year. The fine increases to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, in 2016.

Various glitches have emerged with the Affordable Care Act, but it is a great start to providing reasonably priced health care for everyone.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman4 years ago

Some people on this thread think that they do not need health insurance. Health jeopardizing conditions can lie low for years before becoming viciously obvious. Accidents can happen to anybody.

And medical care is incredibly expensive in the United States. My minor, lasting about one hour at most, outpatient procedure with only local anesthesia was billed at $14,000. There's a reason that Obamacare eliminated the lifetime limits imposed by the insurance companies. Even at $1,000,000, some people reached it.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thank You for sharing

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Lori Hone
Lori Hone4 years ago

It's better than what we all had before Obamacare.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Robert & Kathy - What do you expect? John is from down South, a Conservative, a friend of Jacob/Steve and of all, a Christian. Some Christian attitude calling people dummies and lazy asses. Jesus must be SO proud!

Cathy Hoskins
Cathy Hoskins4 years ago

@ John H you seem to be getting your information from Rush The Idiot. First off most people can not afford Health Care and are far from lazy. Health Insurance Companies will not insure people who have per-existing conditions and that is a fact. So before you spew your hate filled tea bagger comments at least back it up with some facts and figures not Republican lies that some on here to continue to believe.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm4 years ago

For chrissakes John H that was a ridiculous screed of propaganda.

David Monroe
David Monroe4 years ago

The ACA does help lower income and middle class Americans buy private insurance by subsidizing them. It's not as good as single payer/medicare for all, but it does cover 20 to 30 million Americans who previously did not have health insurance. So it is incremental progress.

Yet, the Radical Republicans won't take YES for an answer! Their lies have succeeded in confusing people to the point that they like the ACA, but not "Obamacare." They are of course 2 different names for the same thing! And at it's core it's the Heritage Foundation, republican plan rejected by the Clintons who fought for but could not get the public option through congress.

I see at least one person posting here is just parrotting the Obama Hate. The haters don't even know the history of the ACA or why they hate it as Obamacare. It's blind hatred. Completely uninformed.

No doubt the President is right. Once people see the options in the exchanges and know the truth, they won't be calling it Obamacare anymore! THEN some will shamelessly start trying to take credit for it!