The new health care law is bringing big changes to how Americans get health care starting next week. Though this day has been coming for more than three years, surveys show that most Americans don't have a clue what's happening or what they need to do about it, if anything.
Consumer Reports is here to help. Today we're launching an interactive tool, the Health Law Helper, to help you figure out how the new law affects you. You'll put in some basic (and needless to say, confidential) information about your family size, income range, citizenship status, the state you live in, and where you get your insurance now (or not, as the case may be).
You'll get back a personalized list of options based on your particular situation. For example, if you get insurance through a job, you'll be told how to figure out whether it meets the new law's standards for affordability and coverage. And if it doesn't, you'll get information on what to do next.
If you don't have insurance now, you'll be shown options that can be quite different depending on your age, household size, and income, and the state you live in.
Today is day 4 of our 100-day Health Reform Countdown. We're getting ready for Jan.1, 2014, when the new health law takes full effect. See Day 1: Big changes coming, Day 2: Stay uninsured on purpose? Bad idea!, and Day 3: Good news on health insurance premiums. For more, see our full coverage of health insurance and health reform.
Why did we go to the trouble of creating this tool? Because the new law is complex in and of itself, and is grafted onto a health care system that's already the most complex in the world. We think it will be all too easy for people to miss out on the chance to get better or more affordable insurance just because they aren't aware of the many nuances of the law.
One example: a 24-year-old freelancer who's still on his parent's plan might be able to get a better deal on his own. The Health Law Helper will alert him to that fact.
Others might worry needlessly about having to do something when they don't. For instance, we've been hearing regularly from people on Medicare who think they have to buy some other kind of insurance to comply with the new law. They don't, and Health Law Helper will tell them so.
One thing the tool will not do, just to be clear, is tell you exactly what plan to buy, and what company to buy it from. For that job, we have NCQA's rankings of hundreds of private health insurance plans nationwide, which we're making available free of charge to nonsubscribers for the first time this year. Many of these plans are from companies that are selling coverage in the new state marketplaces.
Got a question for me? Ask it here. It helps if you include the state you live in.