Consumer Reports: You and the new health law

September 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
About one in five Americans buys individual health insurance or is completely uninsured. Starting on Jan. 1, just about everyone in the U.S. will be required to have health insurance. It's one of the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Consumer Reports finds that most people are confused about how the new law affects them, but help is available.

Starting Oct. 1, each state will have a kind of virtual insurance store, or martketplace. There, you can compare plans and learn whether you qualify for financial assistance.

If your current plan is really expensive or excludes a lot of services, you may find that you qualify for a better plan at a lower cost on your state's marketplace. But not everyone needs to shop for new insurance.

Most Americans already have insurance, either through their own or someone else's job or through a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. They probably won't have to do anything, but it never hurts to check.

To find out what you need to do, Consumer Reports has designed a free online tool called the Health Law Helper. You just have to answer some simple questions. Then click to get your results. You'll learn the options you have to help you comply with the law. And you'll get information about the next steps to take.