Affordable Care Act: What you need to do

October 1, 2013 3:11:03 AM PDT
Starting on January 1, just about everyone in the US 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," he said. "And there's no limit to what you could be paying for it."

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 1, 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," Consumer Reports' Nancy Metcalf said.

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," Metcalf said. "They probably won't have to do anything, but it never hurts to check."

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 1?" "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," Metcalf said. "And you'll get information about the next steps to take."

Consumer Reports notes that this year only, you'll have until the end of March to purchase insurance through the marketplace.

To find the name of your state's marketplace, Visit and use the dropdown menu to fill in your state's name at the bottom left of the screen.

This report is based on an article in the current November 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, pages 30-33. The issue will be on newsstands from September 30th to November 3rd.


Affordable Care Act website

For information in New York State, please visit or call 855-355-5777.

For information in New Jersey, please or call 800-318-2596.

For information in Connecticut, please visit