The Affordable Health Care Act is being called the most historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system since medicare and medicaid.
The new health care rules are still months away, but insurance expert Wendell Potter warns, right now, “It’s very important to find out what your obligations are going to be.”
Starting next year, you must have health insurance. Those who don't will face a penalty of $95 per taxpayer or one percent of their annual income, whichever is greater. That means, a family making $50,000 a year will pay $500 in fines.
In 2016, those fines will then increase to $695 per taxpayer or 2.5 percent of family income.
The penalty is calculated on a month-to-month basis, so it’s a good idea to start comparing insurance plans now.
"We need to make sure we’re looking and paying attention to what is covered and what's not and what our out-of-pocket expenses are going to be," explained Potter.
Starting in October, people in need of insurance can shop for plans that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014 through "exchanges" -- basically one-stop shops for your insurance needs, but no matter where you purchase.
"People need to understand that they are more than likely going to have to pay more out of pocket than they might expect," said Potter.
That’s because insurance premiums are expected to go up 10 percent to 13 percent, but preventative services like breast cancer and cholesterol screenings, as well as routine immunizations, can be covered without any out-of-pocket costs.
Under the Affordable Health Care Act, insurance companies cannot deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, but premiums can vary based on age, where you live, family size, and tobacco use. Smokers, for example, may have to pay up to 50 percent more for premiums than non-smokers.