What the Affordable Care Act means for you, and why October 1 is such a big step

PHOENIX - The next big milestone in the "Affordable Care Act" – also called "Obamacare" – is around the corner, but what does that mean to you?

Starting on October 1, the marketplace for government health insurance plans will open, and thousands of Arizonans who have never had healthcare before can weigh their options.

But the marketplace isn't just for the uninsured. If you have an employee-provided health insurance plan, you can still check out the marketplace.

You may qualify for a federally run plan depending on your income and other factors.

Starting in 2014, most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Health instance marketplaces, or exchanges, are being set up to create more competitive health care plans for you to choose from.

Each state, including Arizona, is setting up their own marketplace.

From October until March, you'll have the chance to compare the plans and possibly pick one for you and your family.

There are resources out there to help you through this maze-- from counselors to non-partisan, non-profits like Get Covered America.

They can tell you what kind of plan and tax credit you might be eligible for, and point you in the right direction to make sure you get covered before next year's deadline.

"There's a lot of information out there, there's a lot of misconceptions out there. That's why we're here, we want to share that information with folks," said Stan Williams with Get Covered America.

To start the process, you can talk to a counselor or check in with groups like them to help walk you through the process.

Here are some links to review:

Get Covered America
http://www.getcoveredamerica.org/

Kaiser Family Foundation
http://kff.org/health-reform/

JAMA
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1487506

 All of these health care plans have to cover the basics, like preventative care, maternity care and hospital visits.

"Get Covered America" estimates there are nearly one million uninsured Arizonans right now, and many, depending on their income level, will qualify for tax credits to help pay for their new health insurance plan.

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