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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

7 Surprising Things About the Affordable Care Act

3. Most people who are uninsured will qualify for financial assistance to buy a new policy.

A major goal of the Affordable Care Act is to help people get good-quality and reasonably priced health coverage if they don't already have it. That’s why the government will help people pay for new policies if they make less than 400% of the federal poverty level, or $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four.

About 26 million adults under age 65 who are uninsured will be required to buy insurance or face a penalty. Of those, two-thirds can get the coverage for free or at a reduced cost, according to the nonprofit Urban Institute. That includes 11 million people who will be eligible for a government subsidy (a type of financial aid) and about 8 million who can get the coverage for free or nearly free through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"Most people, most of the uninsured, and about half of people buying individual insurance already, will be eligible for tax credits," says Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To get the new tax credits, though, you'll need to buy a policy through one of the new state Marketplaces. 

The lower your income, the less you will pay.

"I think many people will be pleasantly surprised that they qualify for help ... and that they have a selection of plans that will serve them," says Cheryl Fish-Parcham. She is deputy director of health policy at Families USA, a nonprofit group.

4. Women get important new benefits, and they won't be charged more than men.

The Affordable Care Act is expanding health insurance coverage for everyone, but women will arguably see some of the biggest benefits from the law.

Many are already in effect. For example, if you meet age requirements, certain health checks are offered at no charge to patients, not even copays. These include mammograms, bone scans for osteoporosis, Pap smears and pelvic exams for cervical cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, and a host of other health tests. Birth control is now free to women, as is the doctor's visit to figure out which kind of contraception you might need.

Starting in January, a woman can't be charged more than a man for health insurance. Right now, 36 states allow insurers to charge women more -- and 92% of popular plans in those states charge women between 20% and 40% more than they charged a man of the same age, according to a 2012 report from the National Women's Law Center.

"So now we'll have a new world in which women will not have to pay more than men for the same insurance policies," says Lauren Birchfield Kennedy. She is senior health policy council for the National Partnership for Women and Families.

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