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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

WebMD Health News

7 Surprising Things About the Affordable Care Act

Sept. 13, 2013 -- The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, already has brought big changes to the U.S. health care system.

You may have gotten a refund check from your health insurance company, for example. Or maybe the last time you visited your doctor you weren’t charged for some preventive services like vaccines, certain cancer screening tests, and tests for heart disease and diabetes.

And more change is coming.

This fall, many people will start shopping for beefed-up health coverage through new online Marketplaces, also called Exchanges. The new policies will take effect in January, and people who don't have adequate insurance coverage in 2014 may face a penalty on the taxes they file in 2015.

Feeling lost about what all this means for you? A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that slightly more than half of all Americans (51%) say they're still not sure what the health care reform law means for them. About 4 in 10 people aren’t sure if the law is still in effect. (It is.)

If you count yourself among the confused, don't fret. This article covers seven surprising things you need to know about this brave new world of required health insurance coverage.

1. Most people won't pay a penalty.

The new law does require most people to carry health insurance or pay a penalty when they file their taxes. In 2014, the penalty will be $95 per adult and $47.50 for each child, or 1% of your income, whichever is greater. The maximum penalty for a family is $285.

What you may not know, though, is that 9 out of 10 working-aged adults won’t be subject to the penalty because most people already have insurance that meets the law, or they don’t make enough money to be fined, according to experts.

2. Oct. 1 isn't a deadline for you, but it is for the government.

You may have heard that everyone is scrambling to meet the law's Oct. 1 deadline. Breathe easy. You don't have to do anything by Oct. 1. But the federal government -- or your state -- is on the hook, and your employer probably is, too.

Oct. 1 is the day the new insurance Marketplaces are set to open in every state. The Marketplaces have web sites that offer one-stop shopping for new health insurance. Fill out a three-page form, and you can find out if you qualify for financial assistance and see what policies you can buy. Open enrollment runs from October 2013 through March 2014. Some states chose to operate their own Marketplaces. Others left it up to the federal government. There also will be trained “navigators” in your community to help you understand and sign up for insurance.

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