The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a comprehensive health insurance reform aimed at making health insurance more affordable, higher in quality and with more accessibility. It also imposes new responsibilities on individuals to purchase health insurance, expands Medicaid, and gives employers new incentives to provide insurance for their employees.

The ACA requires states to create a competitive marketplace called Exchanges, for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance. These Exchanges, which begin operating by January 1, 2014, will be the main way that people buy insurance coverage.

These Exchanges (called SHOP) will allow individuals and small business owners to compare plans and purchase them through the mail, phone, in person, or via a web portal, which will provide comparative information. Information provided will include premiums, availability, cost-sharing, covered benefits, provider networks and the medical loss ratio (the amount plans spend to pay medical claims versus administrative costs). Consumers will be able to access their actual insurance costs and determine any premium subsidies they may receive with an online calculator. The Exchanges will provide a toll-free consumer assistance hotline for culturally and linguistically appropriate information.

For more information about how the Affordable Care Act will affect your individual health insurance needs, or small group health insurance, contact the insurance experts at D&S Insurance Services.