Food for thought on Obamacare

Posted: September 11, 2013

HE HAD ME at the dedication.

Don Silver, a personal-finance author, has written an e-book to help explain the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.

"This book is dedicated to both the tens of thousands of government workers who either participated in creating the 20,000 pages of law and regulations of ObamaCare, or will be involved in implementing and enforcing the law as well as the millions of individuals and families in the United States who will be part of this social experiment," Silver writes.

Next month, the health-care exchanges will open, and finally we will begin to see the impact of the Affordable Care Act. But so much fighting has occurred around the law, that what it says and what it sets out to accomplish are being lost in the debates.

There's an old joke that goes, "How do you eat an elephant?"

The answer: "One bite at a time."

Although the Affordable Care Act is no joke, you'll have to digest it little by little. That's what Silver has done in The Best ObamaCare Guide: For You, Your Family and Your Business (Adams-Hall Publishing, $7.99).

Here's what this book is not about: politics.

"This is not a book about public policy," Silver says. He keeps his commentary politically neutral, which is refreshing.

"There are benefits in ObamaCare and there are dangers, too," he says. "You need to know what they are, where to look for them and how to deal with them."

Silver can't cover everything or address every nuance in a law this expansive. The typical disclaimer on such personal-finance books is usually a paragraph or two. Silver's disclaimer is about two pages long.

This book is a guide for what you'll need to know before open enrollment for the health-care exchanges starts. Think of it as CliffsNotes for ObamaCare. When it comes to your individual situation, Silver encourages you, as do I, to consult with a professional such as an insurance agent or the folks working in your state's insurance marketplace.

The book is divided into four parts - "ObamaCare Essentials"; "Individual and Family Essentials"; "Employer/Employee Essentials"; and, finally, a section that deals with Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, doctors, drugs and dental issues.

I wanted to know why the book is only available electronically.

"The main reason is that I wanted the book to cover all of the regulations issued through Aug. 31 and still be available for consumers and business owners before the Oct. 1 enrollment start date," Silver told me. "A quick-enough turnaround would not be possible with a print edition."

True enough. Much of how ObamaCare will be implemented is being handled in the form of regulations. "Since regulations keep being issued, understanding ObamaCare is a moving target," Silver writes.

Try to take in too much information about ObamaCare at one time, and you are likely to get dizzy. Nonetheless, try you must. Young people in particular need to pay attention. You may think you can wait, but trust me, health care matters. If you're trying to figure out what to do about your health care and whether you can afford it with or without federal subsidies, the information in this book is yet another tool to guide you to that answer.

Silver's bottom line is: What you don't know can cost you.

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