2014 brings Obamacare savings and sanctions

What's ahead for Obamacare in 2014?
What's ahead for Obamacare in 2014? © Christian Delbert/

The long-awaited affordability features of the Affordable Care Act are finally ready for prime time in 2014, along with the Obamacare requirement that virtually all Americans must have health insurance or face a penalty.

Major provisions of President Barack Obama's health reform law, from its subsidies for lower-income applicants to its expansion of Medicaid, finally take center stage.

"Many Americans will start to learn what tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies they're eligible for and the vast benefits of the law," predicts Dania Palanker, senior counsel for the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. "Not only will they have insurance, they'll have insurance they can afford to use."

And yes, like an episode of "Downton Abbey," there are certain to be surprises along the way.

"The other side of getting health insurance at an affordable price with a pre-existing condition is, the young will pay a higher price for their good health and age," says Michael Morrisey, a professor of health economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "When that sticker shock hits, it's probably going to be a big topic for the first half of 2014."

Here are the top six Obamacare plot twists sure to make headlines in 2014.

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Obamacare's big day has finally arrived. The new year brings the penalties and the potential savings promised by the Affordable Care Act.

What's known as the "individual mandate" under the health care law is taking effect. It requires most Americans to pay a penalty if they don't have coverage. For 2014, the penalty starts at $95, and it can be substantially more for those with large families and higher incomes.

Also arriving are the subsidies to help many people with the cost of health care. Depending on income, those who purchase a plan through their state's Obamacare exchange may qualify for a tax credit to cut monthly health insurance premiums or assistance with copayments, coinsurance and other out-of-pocket expenses.

And, insurers are now barred from discriminating against consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.



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