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GUIDE: Understanding the Affordable Care Act

Don't Waste Your Money

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No matter what you think of "Obamacare," starting on Jan. 1, 2014, just about everyone in the United States will be required to have health insurance.

It’s one of the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine say most people are confused about how the new law affects them – but help is available.

Families worry about costs

For years, Mark Yurqiw has bought his own insurance. But he says the premiums keep going up, and it gets harder to understand what’s actually covered.

“It’s a terrible situation to be in, not knowing what you’re going to have to pay for something, and there’s no limit to what you could be paying for it.” He had no idea how much Obamacare would cost.

Like Mark, about one in five Americans buys individual health insurance or is completely uninsured. Under the new health care law, they’ll find an entirely new way of choosing and purchasing insurance.

'Marketplace' goes online Monday

Starting Oct. 1, each state will have a kind of virtual insurance store, or "martketplace." There, you can compare plans and learn whether you qualify for financial assistance.

“If your current plan is really expensive or excludes a lot of services, you may find you qualify for a better plan at a lower cost on your state’s marketplace,”said Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports.

But not everyone needs to shop for new insurance.

“Most Americans already have insurance, either through someone’s job or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid. They probably won’t have to do anything, but it never hurts to check,” Metcalf said.

How to find your costs

To find out what you need to do, our partners at Consumer Reports have designed a free online tool called the Health Law Helper.

First, answer some simple questions like “What age will you be on Jan. 1?" “How many people are in your family?" and “What is your family’s yearly income?”

Then click to get your results.

“You’ll learn what options you have to help you comply with the law. And you’ll get information about the next steps to take,” Metcalf said.

For the health care tool on the Consumer Reports website or go to HealthLawHelper.org.

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