Like most Americans, you've probably heard of "Obamacare," but you're not exactly sure what it is. According to your uncle's Facebook posts, it sounds pretty scary, like maybe it's going to turn America into a Kenyan Soviet Union or something.
Well, good news: Obamacare is probably not going to do that! What a relief, huh? What other mysteries about the new health-care law can we clear up for you? Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young has 14 answers, for starters:
1. What is Obamacare, exactly?
"Obamacare" is a nickname for the Affordable Care Act, a controversial law Congress passed and President Obama signed in 2010. To the chagrin of Republican opponents, who are still trying to kill the law, the Supreme Court declared it constitutional in 2012.
Its goal is to get health insurance to more Americans, 48 million of whom currently don't have any. This includes making it easier for people who aren't insured through work to buy their own insurance.
Obamacare also ends some notorious insurance practices. Now insurers can't exclude people with pre-existing conditions, can't kick patients off their plans when they run up big medical bills, and can't set dollar limits on how much care they'll cover. The law also says consumers' out-of-pocket costs generally can't exceed $6,350 for a single person or $12,700 for a family in a year. If a serious illness or accident creates costs above that amount, insurance pays all the bills.
Obamacare also sets "minimum essential benefits" every insurance plan must cover, including prescription drugs and maternity care. Many plans today don't include such benefits. Health screenings and birth control are available at no cost when you get them.
2. What if the government shuts down because Republicans want to stop Obamacare?
It doesn't really matter. Ironically, the program will continue even if the federal government is technically closed for business.
3. Why is it called "Obamacare?"
Because Obama pushed for its passage. Republican opponents first started using the term as an insult, but then Obama embraced it. Now everybody calls it Obamacare. Although perhaps Obama should reconsider, as "Obamacare" doesn't poll nearly as well as "Affordable Care Act."
4. So do I need to do anything?
Probably not, if you're one of the roughly 80 percent of Americans who gets health insurance through their job or a family member's job, or is enrolled in a government program like Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program. Congratulations, you might be done with this article.
If you're really worried about it, you should check with your employer about how your benefits might change in 2014.
And if you buy your own insurance, or if you aren't insured, then you will likely need to know and do some things.