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What to Know: Affordable Care Act Resources and Information

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act open. It can be confusing, however, so here is some basic information and resources to help with understanding Obamacare. You may also want to read a Q&A from NPR's Morning Edition about the ACA. 90.5 WESA's daily magazine program Essential Pittsburgh will host public forum on the topic Thursday.

The Basics: Before you dive into some of the more complex facets of the law, you can check out Planned Parenthood’s brief coverage of the ACA Their breakdown provides a simple, straightforward explanation about what the Affordable Care Act is and why you should care about buying health insurance in the first place. It provides a good primer for some of the tough stuff covered by the sources down below.

As a bonus, Planned Parenthood’s coverage highlights some of the benefits provided to women under the act, such as free birth control and free well-woman exams.

The Measures: The website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services might avoid some of the more hot-button questions raised by the Affordable Care Act (not much is said here about the individual mandate, or about the ACA’s requirements for employers), but it provides an in-depth listing of the act’s benefits and improvements. Better yet, the site breaks down the list into a timeline, allowing you to see not just in terms of what aspects of the bill are important but also in terms of when they will go into effect.

The American Public Health Association’s fact sheets might not go as in-depth as its government counterparts into some of the Affordable Care Act’s obscure provisions, but the site’s format is much more user-friendly. The descriptions of selected ACA provisions are concise but effective. Check out the APHA’s fact sheets to help mentally organize the key features of the new law for yourself.

The Specifics: Understanding the general provisions of the Affordable Care Act is one thing, but applying those provisions to your own life and family is an entirely different beast. Fortunately, the Kaiser Family Foundation crafted an easy-to-use Subsidy Calculator to see how your own circumstances will affect your options regarding the health care law. Entering in basic information about your household — your annual income, your number of family members, etc. — prompts the system to give you a description of the law as it applies to you. The personalized list includes suggestions on a plan for you to purchase, estimated out-of-pocket costs, your estimated yearly cost, and how you stand in regards to Medicare and Medicaid.

 Time Magazine created an interactive graphic of how the ACA will affect the everyday American, from the young adult to the small business owner. The graphic is condensed and straightforward, and it touches on important ideas left out in several other sources such as the effects on large companies, the individuals exempt from purchasing health insurance, and the enforcement of the Act’s penalties.

To make informed decisions, the public must receive unbiased truth.

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