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Affordable Care Act marketplaces open

The logo for Covered California, the state-run website responsible for healthcare enrollments. (Covered California)
The logo for Covered California, the state-run website responsible for healthcare enrollments. (Covered California)

Jimmy Kimmel Live recently did an informal poll and asked people on the street whether they preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. The interview subjects all critiqued Obamacare and said they preferred the Affordable Care Act, displaying the confusion many Americans feel — Obamacare is actually the same thing as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the ACA.

Every single American is affected by this massive piece of legislation, giving it the widest impact since FDR passed the New Deal. If everything goes as scheduled, Americans with an income above $10,000 a year will be required to have health insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The non-compliant will be penalized by taxation; the fee that starts low and rises yearly. Although some aspects of the bill took effect when it was signed in 2010, such as extended coverage of parents’ insurance to their children until age 26, the majority of the ACA will take effect next year and continue to roll out through 2022.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recently discussed the changes coming up next year in an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Many young people don’t purchase comprehensive insurance plans, Sebelius said, but she believes that fines are justified because good health coverage may be more valuable than they realize.

“For a lot of young folks, they’re one fall on the basketball court, one auto accident away from a lifetime of hospital bills they can’t pay,” Sebelius said.

In order to facilitate an individual’s access to coverage, federal or state-run platforms known as exchanges, or Health Insurance Marketplaces, opened on October 1. They are accessible online or through call centers, where consumers can compare new insurance plans offered by competing private insurers. Users can create an account to browse through their options and purchase coverage, which starts Jan. 1. Basically, this is what Jon Stewart called “the first shopping mall” for health insurance.

According to, the Health Insurance Marketplace will also connect Americans to increased opportunities for federal aid since more families will become eligible for free or subsidized healthcare.

The California exchange, Covered California, is run by the state and received tens of thousands of enrollments in its first week. The site has experienced technical difficulties due to the large volume of traffic, as many people who need coverage and have until now been denied it due to pre-existing conditions finally qualify for insurance.