Online tool helps sort through Affordable Care Act options

Posted at 12:21 PM, Sep 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-30 14:15:00-04

Starting on January first, just about everyone in the U.S. will be required to have health insurance. It’s one of the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Consumer Reports finds most people are confused about how the new law affects them – but help is available.

Ever since he retired, Mark Yurqiw has bought his own insurance. But he says the premiums keep going up, and it gets harder to understand what’s actually covered.

“It’s a terrible situation to be in, not knowing what you’re going to have to pay for something, and there’s no limit to what you could be paying for it.”

Consumer Reports’ HealthLawHelper
Health Care Marketplace: Virginia
Health Care Marketplace: North Carolina
Affordable Care Act: Your guide to health insurance terms

Like Mark, about one in five Americans buys individual health insurance or is completely uninsured. Under the new health care law, they’ll find an entirely new way of choosing and purchasing insurance.

Starting October first, each state will have a kind of virtual insurance store, or martketplace. There, you can compare plans and learn whether you qualify for financial assistance.

“If your current plan is really expensive or excludes a lot of services, you may find you qualify for a better plan at a lower cost on your state’s marketplace.”

But not everyone needs to shop for new insurance.

“Most Americans already have insurance, either through someone’s job or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid. They probably won’t have to do anything, but it never hurts to check,” says Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports.

To find out what you need to do, Consumer Reports has designed a free online tool called the Health Law Helper.

First, answer some simple questions like “What age will you be on January first?” … “How many people are in your family?” … and  “What is your family’s yearly income?”

Then click to get your results.

“You’ll learn what options you have to help you comply with the law. And you’ll get information about the next steps to take.” says Metcalf.

Mark Yurqiw hopes he’ll finally be able to cut his health care costs.

The health care tool from Consumer Reports is available at Consumer Reports notes this year only, you’ll have until the end of March to purchase insurance through the marketplace.