The Affordable Care Act is supposed to help give millions of Americans options for affordable, comprehensive health insurance—but it will be up to those people to take advantage of those options.
The ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, has a number of deadlines that individuals and employers need to keep in mind for years to come to avoid missing out on the insurance options available to them or being financially penalized for failing to comply with the health-care reform law.
Obamacare requires nearly all Americans to have some form of health insurance—either from their employer, Medicare, Medicaid or individually purchased coverage—by 2014 or face a tax penalty, which will grow in amount in future years. Government-run health exchanges, or marketplaces, are being set up in each state to offer insurance coverage to people who lack health insurance or who are looking for more affordable coverage than what they have now.
The first big date in 2013 is Oct. 1, when the health exchanges open for business, and individuals can start comparing premium prices for the insurance plans being offered. The options on state exchanges can be found by going to www.healthcare.gov, which is also where you can learn whether your income qualifies you for government subsidies to offset the cost of insurance.
Oct. 1 is also the start of a six-month open enrollment on the exchanges, the period when people can choose the insurance plan they want and get covered for 2014.
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After that, the deadlines begin. The key ones are: