Affordable Healthcare Act

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The Affordable Healthcare Act is being called the most historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system since Medicare and Medicaid.

Understanding it right now, could help you make better decisions in the future.

New healthcare rules are still months away, but insurance expert Wendell potter warns, right now. “It's very important to find out what your obligations are going to be," says potter.

Starting next year, you must have health insurance. Those who don't, face a penalty of 95-dollars per taxpayer or one-percent of their annual income, whichever is greater. That means, a family making 50-thousand dollars a year will pay 500 dollars in fines. In 2016, those fines increase to 695-dollars per taxpayer or two-point-five percent of family income. The penalty is calculated on a month-to-month basis so, it's a good idea to start comparing insurance plans now. "We need to make sure we're looking and paying attention to what is covered and what's not. What our out of pocket expenses are going to be."

Starting in October, people in need of insurance can shop for plans that will take effect on January first 2014 through "exchanges." basically one-stop shops for your insurance needs, but no matter where you purchase. "People need to understand that they are more than likely going to have to pay more out of pocket than they might expect."

That's because insurance premiums are expected to go up ten to 13-percent, but preventative services like breast cancer and cholesterol screenings, as well as routine immunizations like flu shots will be covered without any out of pocket costs. Under the affordable healthcare act, insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, but premiums can vary based on age, where you live, family size, and tobacco use. If you like cigarettes, get ready to fork over a lot more cash for health coverage. Smokers may have to pay up to 50-percent more for premiums than non-smokers.