The historic and controversial Obamacare is now in effect. Beginning today, you can go to and search through the marketplace for plans—the open enrollment period begins today and lasts until March 31, 2014.  Actual coverage begins on January 1, 2014, and estimates are already showing that premiums are lower than expected.

In the new marketplace, consumers will be able to compare plans that meet their needs and budget.  The administration has laid out expected costs for individuals, which will vary depending on what state you live in.  For example, in Maryland, a  25 year-old making $25,000 a year could get covered for as little as $80 a month and a family of four making $50,000 a year could get covered for as little as $164 a month. 

President Obama and former President Bill Clinton teamed up last week to explain Obamacare to Americans—and to call out Republicans for the misinformation campaign that has many people confused and unsure about how the president’s health care law will help them.  “You’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal,” President Obama said in New York last week. “[T]he devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know, he said, adding that opponents of the law are merely hoping to “scare people with the prospect of change.”

Change can be scary, but reports coming out about Obamacare are showing that low cost health insurance is in high demand and that the program, while not without some glitches and delays early on, is already working to lower health care costs.  Even if you already have health insurance you can check out the marketplace to see if there is a better deal available.  If you are satisfied with your plan, then you are able to keep it without a penalty.  Small businesses can also go onto the marketplace to compare plans to insure their workers with the new Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).  They won’t be able to sign up online, but instead will need to fax or mail their applications.

People under the age of 26 were already able to stay on their parents' plans and now those who will be turning 26 in the next year, will now be able to enroll in their own plans.  It’s incredibly important for young people to sign up for health coverage,  not just because it’s always good to be insured in case of a medical emergency, but also because the more of them who enroll, the lower the costs for everyone.  Other benefits of the law, which have already been in place, are guaranteed coverage for adults and children with pre-existing conditions, as well as free preventative care, and no caps on coverage which was a huge problem for people in need of expensive or long term and ongoing treatments. 

Free preventative care which will help Americans, particularly women, will mean no cost annual exams, no cost contraception, and no cost breast cancer screenings.  If you have insurance, you won’t be charged a co-pay for any of these services that traditionally were a substantial financial burden on many American women and families. Planned Parenthood has set up a comprehensive website to help people understand the individual plans, how they align with your insurance requirements (beyond simply reproductive health needs) and how you can pay for them. 

Other essential benefits that are included in every single plan include ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital), emergency services, hospitalization (such as surgery), maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born), mental health and substance use disorder services (including behavioral health treatment, such as counseling and psychotherapy), prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitation services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills), laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services.  Obamacare is finally here and millions of Americans will finally be able to get affordable health insurance as a result.

Click here to sign up and compare plans before open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014.