WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the Affordable Care Act during an East Room event May 10, 2013 at the White House in Washington, DC. President Obama spoke on impacts of the act on health, lives and pocketbooks of women and their families. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The official name is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but you may know it as Obamacare.
The ACA aims to insure all Americans, while increasing the quality and affordability of health care. It affects all of us.
Effective January 1, 2014, all Americans will be required to have a health insurance plan that meets a certain minimum value or pay a penalty.
BREAKING DOWN THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
For people who are presently uninsured, or not happy with their current coverage, the opportunity to shop around begins in just a month-and-a-half.
On October 1, what is known as the health insurance "marketplace" opens for business. This is where you can shop online for health insurance through a government exchange.
There will be a choice of plans, depending on cost, with coverage to begin on January 1, 2014.
"The issue has always been the concern about the uninsured," said Bill Shock.
Shock is executive vice president with the Unland Companies in Pekin, and is serving as our in-house consultant on ACA.
"The uninsured receive medical care, sometimes it's charity care but that is care that's provided by a health care provider," said Shock. "The presumption has always been that if everyone gets into the health insurance pool, it will more equally spread the cost of providing care."
Shock said this does not equate to socialized health care like they have in Canada, because most of the coverage will still be provided by private companies.
Not all of the mechanisms are in place to tell you how to purchase insurance from the marketplace but what happens if you don't get coverage when ACA kicks in?
The penalty in 2014 is 1 percent of your yearly income, or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher.
For each uninsured child, the penalty is $47.50.
The maximum fee a family would be pay in 2014 is $285.
However, the penalty gets significantly higher each year. For instance, in 2016 it is 2.5 percent of your income, or $695 per person, whichever is higher.
Here is a quick checklist on what you can do to enroll in the marketplace if you are interested in the exchange:
1. Make a list of questions you have before it is time to choose your health plan.
2. Make sure you understand how coverage works; premiums, deductibles, co-payments and such.
3. Gather the basic information about your household income.
4. Set your budget.
5. Ask your employer if they plan to offer insurance in 2014. If not, you can go into the marketplace or find another plan.