TODAY   |  October 01, 2013

5 things you need to know about Obamacare

As the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, TODAY financial editor Jean Chatzky and NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman explain to determine whether you need to sign up and the differences between your options.

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>>> reporting, major portions of the affordable healthcare law kick in today and a lot of people have questions. all this week across the platforms of nbc news we'll help you sort through the information with a special series called ready or not. dr. nancy snyderman is the medical editor and jean chatzky. but who has to buy into these exchanges.

>> if you get your healthcare through your employer you don't have to borrow about it. if you buy it individually you want to shop on the exchanges because it's the only way to tax into tax breaks and if you don't have healthcare for you at all this is for you.

>> if you're on cobra right now you'll find out it's cheaper to be on these exchanges.

>> how long do i have?

>> registration starts today. it goes through may of next year but signing up this fall is smart because the benefits kick in january 1st of 2014 .

>> you have to sign up by december 15th to get those benefits.

>> let's talk about the classes of coverage. we have bronze, silver, gold and platinum . what's the big difference in the exchanges?

>> the big difference is with the cheaper ones, the bronze and the silver plans you pay less up front but you pay more out of pocket in the back. when you go platinum you're going to pay more up front and less on the back end.

>> okay.

>> we have been hearing a lot about penalties. how do they bill me and penalize me if i don't sign up?

>> $95 is the penalty this year. it can go up to $240 for a family. they'll get you when you file your 2014 taxes.

>> incrementally it's going to go up every year. for a lot of young people that have to come into this to make it an economically viable model, i hope a lot of young people are going to say why waste $95 and get nothing versus $150 of insurance.

>> that makes sense.

>> exactly.

>> let's talk about one of the big criticisms of existing health insurance . if you have a pre-existing condition you either get shut out and it's hard to buy insurance or you pay exorbitant fees. what happens under the new plans?

>> the pre-existing conditions will be covered. there will be no more lifetime caps on coverage which is another big issue and you won't pay more.

>> does it make it illegal for a company to try to charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition.

>> you cannot do it.

>> absolutely.

>> so women have been paid more for healthcare than men. illegal. we have been denied healthcare for pre-existing conditions, illegal. mental healthcare coverage now covered and you can keep your children on your insurance until the age of 26. i should say these thing versus been in place since the law into place.

>> what about another hot topic. that's preventive care . does this plan help you avoid those conditions by getting preventive care ?

>> it covers preventive care even at the bronze level. that's not something you'll have to come out of pocket for.

>> what's the down side here?

>> well, the down side is going to be will i be paying more for what i have in the past? and the middle class is sort of saying i don't understand where the numbers are going to come. will i maybe have 4 to $6,000 out of pocket and even they have said yes, you may which means you have to go shopping. everybody should be on the computer looking at these exchanges.

>> what we have been saying for years is that bankruptcies, more bankruptcies are caused by health emergencies than any other factor. you get in there, you might have $6,000 out of pocket but it's not going to break you.

>> yeah.

>> i think i said march, it's may of next spring. but between october and december do your homework. this is the magic window .

>> all right. thanks ladies. still