ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - In less than two weeks, the centerpiece of President Obama's comprehensive health care law starts to take hold.
Some experts say this is without a doubt, the most complex national legislation in our lifetime.
On Oct. 1, exchanges in Missouri, Illinois, and around the nation go online. These exchanges are where you can compare and select private health insurance policies that offer a minimum level of coverage. All Americans will have to be insured or face a penalty.
The essential health benefits include hospitalization, emergency services and mental health treatments. According to U.S. Human and Health Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, annual wellness checkups and preventative screenings will be covered with no co-payments or deductibles. This will include colonoscopy, mammogram, Pap smear, well-child visits and flu shots for adults and children.
Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, she said, and it bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits.
There are currently 2.6 million non-elderly residents with pre-existing conditions in Missouri who will benefit from the affordable Care Act. In Illinois, there are more than 5.6 million non-elderly residents with pre-existing conditions.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for health insurance bought through exchanges would vary by age.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the national average annual premium in an Exchange in 2016 would be $4,500-$5,000 for an individual and $12,500 for a family for Bronze coverage - the lowest of the four tiers of coverage that will be available.
In 2012, employees paid $951 on average towards the cost of individual coverage in an employer plan and $4,316 for a family of four.
MORE: How do I get started in the health insurance marketplace?
The Kaiser Family Foundation subsidy calculator illustrates premiums and tax credits for people in different circumstances.
The Sebelius visit was not without criticism. Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin said, "Much like this administration's strategy on spinning the truth and overlooking the true shortcomings of Obama care, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is meeting in private with officials in St. Louis today.
"This secret meeting is the epitome of the problem a majority of Americans have with Obama care," Martin continued. "As it turns out this is just an added burden to taxpayers that is forecast to outpace domestic growth by two percent."
Visit the U.S. Health and Human Services website for more information on Missouri and Illlinois.