When you do use your benefits and go to the doctor, you may have to wait a little longer for an appointment since you'll be competing with more patients who now have insurance.
You may have already been waiting a bit, since there is a primary care physician shortage, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. We're down about 20,000 now, and the number is expected to get worse as physicians age. And it's not just doctors who are in short supply; we also need more nurses, according to the Institute of Medicine.
"Keep in mind, the Affordable Care Act didn't create this crisis," said Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "We've got an aging population that needs more care and a growing population."
If you do go to the hospital, in theory you should be leaving it healthier. The ACA penalizes hospitals that see patients return after treatment, and facilities have started a number of innovative programs to try and keep patients well and out of the hospital.
If something catastrophic happens to you and it's expensive, that's also where the Affordable Care Act will make sure your insurance continues to cover you. In the past, insurance companies could dump you if you spent too much. Those costs are capped under the ACA and there are no lifetime spending limits.
The one thing that was supposed to change under the ACA that has been delayed is a mandate that all companies with more than 50 full-time employees get benefits. Companies will eventually face fines if they don't offer insurance. That doesn't go into effect until 2015.
What if I own -- or work for -- a small business?
A giant part of the small business community, 96 percent of small businesses, have fewer than 50 workers. If you own that kind of business, you don't have to worry about that employer mandate. If you work for one, you will be able to buy a policy in the new the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.
If you do employ more than 50 people, chances are you already offer insurance to your workers -- 90 percent do -- and business owners who are happy with their insurance plan can stick with it. In fact, many insurance companies are offering discounts to clients who renew their policies.
If you are in that 3 percent with more than 50 workers and you do not provide insurance, you will have to start -- or you'll have to pay a penalty starting in 2015.
The government has opened a small business marketplace, also known as the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). It is meant to provide an easier and cheaper venue for business owners to shop for insurance for their employees. SHOP's website lets business owners compare plans.
The government offers tax credits to these smaller business to help pay for this insurance. These are worth up to 50 percent of your premium costs. Small businesses can still deduct the rest of their premium cost not covered by the tax credit. It is only available for plans bought through SHOP.
Is anyone directly impacted by all this Affordable Care Act talk?
If you don't have insurance or haven't qualified for insurance in the past, you'll need to have it by March 31 of next year. If you don't, you'll be fined up to 1 percent of your income or $95, whichever is greater.
You can buy a plan from a broker at any time. If you want to buy through the new Affordable Care Act marketplaces, open enrollment stretches through March 31. You'll only get a tax break/subsidy if you buy a policy through the marketplaces.
If you are like Jeff Jones in Lexington, Ky., who wants a policy to start on Jan. 1, you'll have to make up your mind on which plan is right for you by Dec. 15.
Jones lost his job with the University of Kentucky and is unable to get on his partner's policy. "I've been shopping around online but haven't decided on which policy yet," he said.
Jones has been comparison shopping through Kentucky's state marketplace website. There have been some technical hiccups, but he's been able to see what he'd qualify for based on his expected income. A diabetic, he says he is grateful this is an option now. Currently, insurance companies could deny him a policy since he has this pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act ends that practice next year.
If you can get into the website, you can sign up for a policy through Healthcare.gov. There's also a phone number to call: 800-318-2596 (TTY: 855-889-4325). The number is staffed round the clock. Information is available in more than 150 languages.
There will also be specially trained advisers in communities. These "navigators," as they are known, can help you in person. If you would like to find the closest navigator, go to Localhelp.healthcare.gov. Plug in your ZIP code and it will give you the closest location to get help.