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You’re Covered– With a Little Help from the Affordable Care Act

By Nicole Duritz, Vice President of Health at AARP in the Education and Outreach group

Nicole Duritz
Melissa Golden

John Hodgman, a sharp-witted comedian who occasionally appears on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” took a decidedly unfunny turn on Twitter on Oct. 1, the day the Health Insurance Marketplace went online.

“Young people: sign up for healthcare. Take it from me –YOU ARE NOT IMMORTAL,” Hodgman urged his Twitter followers.

Regardless of your age or current health, now that the Health Insurance Marketplace is open – is it time for you to sign up and start getting the health care you may have been foregoing until now?  Everyone knows there have been hiccups with the site. While the issues are being resolved you can learn about what the law means for you and your family at

And remember, everyone — even those who already have health insurance — can reap the benefits that the ACA has to offer.

  • Who isn’t blown away each January by People Magazine’s “Half Their Size” feature stories – stories about regular people who both look and feel great after shedding enormous amounts of weight? Such extreme makeovers aren’t always realistic, but now there are specific health services that you may be able to access that make it possible to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Yearly mammograms are now free for insured women over 40. But there’s more: Remember Angelina Jolie’s headline-grabbing decision to have a double mastectomy after a genetic test showed she was predisposed to developing breast cancer? That test, for mutations in the BRCA gene, used to cost Americans between $475 and $4,000. Now it’s covered for most women who have a family history of breast or cervical cancer – and you don’t have to be a movie star. Other cancer screenings, like colonoscopies, are also covered.
  • I’ve watched many friends and loved ones struggle to quit smoking, but it’s usually a big life event, like becoming a parent or a grandparent that pushes us to make major health changes for our family.  Most health insurance plans must now provide coverage for “cessation intervention” to help you successfully kick the habit.
  • Thanks to the ACA – all plans must cover the essentials.  This includes doctor visits, emergency care, hospital care, prescription drug coverage and more.  Plus, your plan can no longer place dollar limits on your care.  This means you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that if you get sick or injured, you’re protected from huge, unexpected medical bills. 

Worried about the cost of coverage? Financial help and low cost plans may be available, depending on your income.

If you sign up by Dec. 15, your coverage will start on Jan. 1, 2014. The open enrollment period in the Health Insurance Marketplace will continue until March 31, 2014; after that, if you still don’t have coverage, you may have to pay a penalty when you file your taxes in April 2015.

Hodgman put it in a follow-up (and still unfunny) blog post about his Twitter outpouring, “I consider it a matter of personal self-interest and responsibility to get covered if you care at all about you, your family, and your personal financial future. Going uninsured seems like a fool’s gamble to me. And worse to pay the penalty to opt out of the ACA, because then you’re getting nothing for your money. But that is your choice, and guess what, you HAVE THAT CHOICE.”

To learn more about the Marketplace and the health care law’s benefits and protections, visit www. or for Spanish speakers,


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Nicole Duritz is Vice President of Health at AARP in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP’s consumer health education efforts. The focus areas include Medicare, the health law, prescription drug affordability, and long-term care, prevention and wellness. She can be reached at .


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