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Like it or not, you need to navigate the health law

On Oct. 1, millions of Floridians will be able to shop for health-care coverage through a new online marketplace as key parts of the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act go into effect.  AARP Florida is working to help Floridians 50+ understand how the law will affect them.

“Three years after its passage, supporters and opponents of the health-care law are still arguing with one another,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director.  “The reality is, Floridians of all generations should understand how the law affects them.  AARP Florida is working to help people understand those impacts.”

Important parts of the 2010 national health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, take effect in coming months. Photo by iStock Photo.

In recent weeks, AARP Florida volunteers have worked with public libraries in South Florida, done presentations to groups in Central Florida and gone on radio interview programs in North Florida to share important information about the Affordable Care Act’s implementation this fall.  AARP Florida also has conducted “tele-town halls” touching nearly 140,000 Floridians, shared information with millions of AARP members through the AARP Bulletin, conducted dozens of media interviews and appeared on statewide radio interview programs to share information about the law.

The law affects different groups in different ways:

- If you’re on Medicare:  Not much will change for you, except that your Medicare benefits are improving somewhat.  Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the dreaded Medicare Part D prescription-drug coverage gap – also known as the “doughnut hole” – will receive higher discounts this year on covered prescription drugs.  Medicare beneficiaries also will receive preventive care, such as mammograms, prostate exams or colonoscopies, with no co-pay, because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

- If you have coverage through your job:  Again, not much will change in coming months, except that your insurance plans will include new consumer protections starting January 2014.  Those protections include a requirement that insurers offer coverage despite pre-existing conditions, a provision that forbids insurers to charge older policyholders more than three times as much as they charge the healthiest young person, and provisions stopping insurers from dropping your coverage if you become ill or your care becomes especially costly.
- If you don’t have health coverage:  Implementation of the health law could make a big difference for you.  Floridians who currently have no insurance coverage – an estimated 24 percent of Floridians age 64 or younger – will be able to shop for coverage through an online health-coverage “marketplace”  at .  For those of modest incomes, there will be help to reduce the cost of the coverage, in some cases sharply reducing the out-of-pocket costs of getting health care.

- If you own a small business:  Small businesses that offer coverage to their employees will be able to get approximately the same tax breaks that large companies have long enjoyed when they provide health coverage to their employers.  Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees don’t have to provide coverage for employees but can if they wish to do so.  A mandate in the law that employers with 50 or more workers offer health coverage has been delayed and will take effect in 2015.

- If you’re a parent:  Your child can remain on your health insurance policy until he or she is age 26, unless the child is offered coverage by his or her employer.

National polls have shown that many Americans continue to be confused about the health law’s provisions.  To help Floridians learn how the health law will apply to them, AARP has created a secure web site that offers personalized information at .

It only takes a few minutes to enter information about your circumstances, and at each step, the online tool provides additional information that can be helpful.  You don’t need to enter any sensitive personal information, such as your name, Social Security or Medicare number or any other confidential information.  Also, the system is not able to save your information, again to protect your privacy.

In fact, the health law makes most personal medical information irrelevant for health insurance purposes, since insurers can no longer discriminate against you based on your previous medical history.

If you’re looking for more generalized information about how the health law works, AARP has another tool – .  This site provides specific fact sheets about how the health law affects Medicare beneficiaries, small businesses, people who don’t have health coverage and families.

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