Given all the drama this week, one might think the Affordable Care Act is in limbo, delayed while Congress reconsiders its future.

Wrong.

Despite the pointless posturing on the part of some Republicans, this is the law of the land, affirmed both by the Supreme Court and again by voters in last year's presidential election.

In fact, a key component of the law took effect Tuesday, the same day the GOP forced a government shutdown in an attempt to defund or delay what they derisively call Obamacare.

The Republicans have no chance of success, considering theid demand will never pass the Democrat-controlled Senate -- and even if it did, President Obama would veto it.

The only question is how much pain the Republicans intend to inflict on the country and for how long.

Meanwhile, because of the way it's funded, health care reform was unaffected by the government shutdown Tuesday, which also happened to be the first day millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans could access the online health insurance exchanges to shop for coverage.

The 2010 law requires everyone to have coverage by next year or face a tax penalty. For those who qualify, however, tax credits are available to purchase plans, which are offered in four categories: Bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Bronze plans have the lowest premiums and higher out-of-pocket expenses, while platinum plans have the highest premiums and cover more out-of-pocket expenses.


Advertisement

The new law can be confusing if for no other reason than there are so many options -- 56 insurance plans for Pennsylvania alone -- available to consumers.

However, it's also confusing because some states -- particularly those like Pennsylvania that opted out of state-run exchanges and left the job to the federal government -- made half-hearted efforts to educate the public.

The good news is private organizations and companies, such as Family First Health and Memorial Hospital locally, are taking on that job. They're answering consumers' questions and helping them navigate healthcare.gov, home of the federally run health exchange.

Demand was so high on that site Tuesday -- 2.8 million visitors by the afternoon -- it periodically crashed, and people had difficulty logging on.

It's a glitch, yes, but a good one to have.

Actually, though, there's no need to rush.

The initial enrollment period for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014, ends Dec. 15, but people can enroll through March 31, 2014, and avoid tax penalties.

It's probably a good idea for people to take some time, educate themselves and make sure they're buying the plan best-suited for them.