Column: Food for thought on Obamacare changes

  • Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Editor's note: This is the sixth column in an occasional series from Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

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 Don Silver has done in his e-book “The Best Obamacare Guide: For You, Your Family and Your Business” (Adams-Hall Publishing). The book is the Color of Money Book Club selection for this month.

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

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. One thing I wanted to know is 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. To that end, he encourages readers who want updates to send an email to updates@TheBestObamaCareGuide.com.

You can buy the book on Amazon, and you don't need a tablet. When you order, you can choose how you want to download the book. You can get it on your personal computer, Mac, iPad (or other tablet), or iPhone, Android or Windows phone.

Try to take in too much information at one time about Obamacare 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.

The price for the e-book is about what you would pay for a best-selling e-book, but it's worth having the information in a format that you can easily carry around. Look, I know this isn't a fun read. But read this book and you'll have a better understanding of how to navigate through the changes coming to the health care arena. Silver's bottom line is: What you don't know can cost you.

I'll be hosting a live online discussion about “The Best Obamacare Guide” at noon on Sept. 26 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. Silver will join me to answer your questions. Every month, I randomly select readers to receive copies of the featured book, which in this case were donated by the author. For a chance to win an electronic copy of this month's selection, send an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com with your name and address.

Michelle Singletary is a personal finance columnist for The Washington Post.

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