A marketplace like no other is opening soon.
Beginning Oct. 1, people without health insurance can shop for what is promised to be affordable health care coverage.
It's all part of the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010. For the last three years, various parts of the law have been implemented: Young adults can stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26; insurance companies are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential services such as hospital stays; people with Medicare get free preventive services.
Next up is a part of the law that requires most Americans to maintain "minimum essential" health insurance coverage. It's one of the more controversial provisions of the law commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Remember all the fuss about the Supreme Court weighing in on this mandate? The court ruled last year that the government could make people buy insurance. So unless you are exempt or you are covered through your employer or a government program, you have to purchase insurance from a private company or face a penalty. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 1 to March 31.
This is the first of a series of columns explaining the provisions of the law that are due to take effect next year. But ultimately, you're going to have to do some research yourself. Don't be informed by rumors or the political discourse surrounding this law. There's enough complication in the application of the provisions that you don't need to add to your fears or frustrations by getting advice that is politically motivated.
Thankfully, you have help. Your first stop should be www.healthcare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov for Spanish speakers. It's an easy site to navigate. The information is nicely broken down in various sections. Every state and the District of Columbia will have a health insurance marketplace. Your state may have set up its own exchange or has plans to join with other states to create a regional exchange. Or maybe your state might have opted to let the federal government establish one.