Obamacare Explained (Like You're An Idiot)

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If you make less than that, you could be eligible for Medicaid or some other government assistance. Again, Pollitz said it's worth exploring your options no matter what.

Does everyone have to buy the same plan?

Nope. Plans are divided into four "metal tiers" that run from Bronze all the way up through Platinum. The main difference between the levels is price and cost-sharing percentages. Bronze plans are the cheapest but only pay 60 percent of your medical costs. Platinum plans are the most expensive but pay 90 percent.

The trick is to choose a plan that meets your needs, keeps all your favorite doctors in your network and covers your most frequently filled drug prescriptions.

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By the way, Pollitz offered this tip for those who have an income between one and 2.5 times the Federal Poverty Level: Choose a Silver plan that covers 70 percent of your medical bills. You'll automatically be upgraded to a Gold plan that pays 80 percent of the bills at no extra cost.

There's all this talk about Obamacare deadlines and extensions. It sounds like I have a term paper due.

It's true that the government keeps shifting Obamacare-related dates around so often there ought to be an organizer app for that.

As of this moment, here are the two important dates you need to know:

Monday, Dec. 23, 2013: The deadline for signing up for a plan on healthcare.gov. Some states and plans have extended this deadline.

Friday, Jan, 10, 2014: In most states, this is the date your first monthly insurance premium is due in order to have retroactive coverage for Jan. 1.

Some states have extended the payment deadline even longer. Double-check your state's insurance marketplace website and your individual plan's information.

If you miss your deadlines you won't be covered by the first of the year but you can still sign up for a plan that kicks in later.

I've also heard I will be penalized if I don't buy insurance. Does that mean I will go to jail?

Relax. Pollitz said no one is going to jail over Obamacare. But any American who meets certain income-based criteria must now, by law, have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid or pay a penalty that will be levied when you file your 2014 tax return.

The government just announced a big exception to this financial penalty: For those who received a notice from their insurance company cancelling their old plan because it wasn't up to snuff with Obamacare standards, they'll be exempt from the penalty this year.

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I've avoided signing up because I've heard the healthcare.gov website is a nightmare.

After a disastrous start, Pollitz said that healthcare.gov is actually much improved. For the most part, consumers report that they're able to sign up for a plan with few glitches. Most state exchange websites are performing much better too, Pollitz said, though some are still a mess.

I'm a Senior and on Medicare.

Seniors on Medicare can just ignore this whole Obamacare thing. You're covered.

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