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Understanding the new health care law and what it means for you

Health care is sure to be a hot topic throughout 2013. With existing and upcoming effects from the Affordable Care Act, many Americans face changes when it comes to their health and their insurance plans. The law is confusing and the changes are complex. It’s important to understand how this law will affect your health care and what you personally need to do in the future.

“About 50 percent of the American population will have to make some type of choice in regard to their health plan coverage in the next year,” says Steven Zaleznick, lead of development at HealthPocket, an easy-to-use website offering unbiased health insurance options. “There are many important parts of the law, and some of those changes drastically affect how consumers purchase and use health insurance.”

Some important changes of the new health care law that directly affect consumers include:

1. No denial for pre-existing conditions

Previously, many of the people who needed insurance the most were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, which is a health condition that existed prior to applying for coverage.  In 2014 all health insurance applications will be reviewed on a “guaranteed issue” basis where poor health or prior medical conditions cannot be used to deny an application.

2. Elimination of lifetime benefit limits

Insurance companies can no longer put lifetime caps on benefits. This is good news particularly for people with chronic diseases that require expensive ongoing treatment as well as those who have had a serious medical event such as a stroke that brought with it high medical costs during the time of treatment and rehabilitation.

3. Subsidies for qualifying families

Starting next year, tax credits will be issued to help make health insurance more affordable. If your income is up to 400 percent of the poverty line and affordable insurance is not available to you, such as through your employer, you will receive credits. For reference, the 2012 poverty guidelines for one person is $11,170 in the 48 contiguous states, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  People at or slightly above the poverty line will qualify for Medicaid coverage.

4. Penalties for the uninsured

Under the new law, everyone must carry health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty. Employers of 50 or more people are required to provide health insurance to employees or pay a fee that roughly amounts to $2,000 for every employee beyond 30 employees.

“Whether you are self-employed, unemployed, work at a small company that doesn’t offer insurance, or are a senior who needs to make an annual Medicare choice, there are options available that meet your specific needs,” says Zaleznick. “Because the changes are bringing new opportunities and challenges to consumers, it’s a perfect time to stay informed about how you can make good choices.”

Health insurance provides peace of mind and can cover preventative care as well as major health concerns. It helps you avoid the high costs of treating a serious condition, which for some has even resulted in bankruptcy. Researching and getting health insurance now ensures you make the best decision you can for 2013 and prepares you for the changes to come in 2014.

Websites like make the seemingly complex task of finding health insurance simple. This free service allows users to enter their basic information and search health insurance options available in their area. All you need is your Zip code, no name or contact information, to start searching. It takes just minutes and you can easily sort by different plan features such as vision or maternity coverage.

The advantage of using an unbiased site like that is not affiliated with any insurance or drug company is you get to search through many different options that are independently ranked so you can find the best coverage for your budget and health situation. The site will continuously be updated with new information and options as the law’s changes continue to go into effect.

Making your health a priority is always important, and with the current and upcoming changes to our nation’s law, now is an important time to learn about your options to help ensure you live a long, healthy life.

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