An important goal of the health care reform is to give uninsured individuals and families access to affordable health insurance. Open enrollment for insurance began Oct. 1 for coverage that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. So, what do you have to do?

Well, if you’re already covered under your health care plan at work or by Medicaid, you don’t have to do anything. But if you are uninsured, Oct. 1 is when you can begin shopping on the new health insurance marketplace. Many of you will also be eligible for financial help to pay your premiums, and lower-income individuals and families may have zero-cost healthcare through Medicaid.

The easiest way to explain the new insurance marketplace is by comparing it to a website like Travelocity or Expedia. You plug in your info — where you are going, how many will be traveling, what dates, etc. -– and then you select your flights, hotels and car rentals from a menu of options.

Similarly, on the health exchange, you can plug in your info –- your income, the number of people in your family, whether you already have a primary care doctor, etc. –- and you will select your insurance plan from a menu of options. The marketplace is also where you can find out what tax credits and subsidies you qualify for to help pay your premiums.

If this all sounds a little daunting, don’t worry. There are also people called “navigators” in your community who can guide you through the process. Either in person or through a call center, these navigators are trained to help you understand the decisions you will be making for your and your family’s health care.

Some states, including Maryland and Washington, D.C., have opted to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Other states, including Virginia, have chosen not to, and residents of those states will enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange. Whether you enroll through your state marketplace or on the federal exchange, the Affordable Care Act ensures the same level of coverage, including doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions and mental health care. Also, you will pay nothing for many preventive services like well-baby and well-child visits, cancer screenings and immunizations.

You can find more information about the Affordable Care Act and how to enroll for insurance by going to the website for your marketplace.

Important Links

If you live in Washington, D.C., your marketplace is DC Health Link.

If you live in Maryland, your marketplace is Maryland Health Connection.

If you live in Virginia, your marketplace is

If you are a “Young Invincible,” age 18-34, check out this website for information about the issues that affect you: affordable health care, higher education, jobs and the economy.


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