100 days to health care reform's big changes

Here's a quick run down on what's happening and when

Published: September 23, 2013 05:30 AM

Sure, it's hard to tune out the political yelling and screaming over the Affordable Care Act. But if we can have your attention for just a moment, we'd like to remind everyone that health reform is actually happening. In every state. Soon.

Here's a quick overview of what's coming up.

The new law's Big Four changes begin on Jan. 1, 2014.

1. Insurers will no longer be allowed to turn people down or charge them extra because of pre-existing conditions.

2. Nearly all legal residents of the United States will have to have some kind of health insurance.  (For this year only, uninsured people will be getting a grace period of three extra months, until March 31, to get health coverage, but if you are in this group we strongly urge you to get it lined up before you head out to your New Year's Eve party.)

3. People who remain uninsured even if they can find affordable coverage will pay a fine come income tax time.

4. To facilitate #2 and #3 above, low- and moderate-income households will get financial help in the form of a new kind of tax credit that they can use right away to help cover the cost of premiums. Some households will also qualify for reduced out-of-pocket costs, such as lower deductibles or copays.

We'll be running a news item every day during the 100 days beween today and Jan. 1, 2014 about what's happening, when, and who needs to do what (if anything—most Americans won't have to lift a finger, something we'll also explain as we go along).

Another important date will arive much sooner: Tuesday, Oct. 1. That's the day when new Health Insurance Marketplaces open up in every state. Some states are running their own and some have left that job to the federal government. Either way, the marketplaces are a new way to buy insurance for yourself and your family.

Anyone can use them, but they're really designed for the 20 percent of us who don't have access to decent health insurance right now through a job or government program such as Medicare of Medicaid. On your state marketplace, you can find a selection of private (not government-run) health insurance plans at various price points. All will offer good benefits. You'll be able to compare plans before you buy, which you can do right there on the marketplace.

More important, you'll find out whether you qualify for financial assistance, which you'll be able to use immediately, when you sign up for a plan, all without leaving the marketplace.

Most people will probably at least start at their marketplace's website, but there will be plenty of real people available to help over the phone or in person if you need it.

Find a link to your state's marketplace here.

We'll be running a news item every day during the 100 days beween today and Jan. 1 about what's happening, when, and who needs to do what (if anything—most Americans won't have to lift a finger, something we'll also explain as we go along).

If you have any questions about the new health law, or health insurance in general, ask me here. It helps if you include the name of the state you live in.

—Nancy Metcalf

 

 

 


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