Regina Lewis, Special for USA TODAY
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, many of the major components of the Affordable Care Act will go into effect, including the provision requiring all U.S. residents to have a minimum level of healthcare coverage.
Here's a quick breakdown of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The requirement means businesses with fifty or more full-time employees will have to provide full-time workers with insurance coverage, or pay a fine.
Employers can increase the incentives they give employees who take part in goal-oriented wellness programs. Here's what that also means: in effect, you'll pay more for your health insurance if you don't participate.
Apparently that's enough to get people focused on healthy lifestyles. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, incentives correspond with a 14% increase in wellness-program participation.
Having healthier employees does pay off. Research has shown that for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs, healthcare and absenteeism, costs drop a lot. By some measures, medical expenses fall approximately $3.27 for every $1 spent on wellness, and absenteeism costs fall $2.73 for every dollar spent. Not a bad return.
Individuals who do not receive coverage from their employer will have to purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or state-based exchanges, which will open for enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013 - another key date.
In 2014, there will start to be penalties for not buying insurance, but they are not that steep - at least not initially. You're off the hook for fees if your insurance premiums would be more than 8% of your gross income. Otherwise, here are the flat rate numbers:
• $95 in 2014
• $325 in 2015
• $695 in 2016
From there, the plan calls for increases indexed to inflation and subject to a cap. Those fees may not be steep enough to force action.
Even in 2016, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects 4 million uninsured, non- exempt Americans will refuse to get medical coverage and face the penalty.
So, your simplified moves for the changing healthcare landscape: Think ahead, get and stay as well as you can and plan to avoid or absorb fees. For more information:
Regina Lewis is a national television contributor and host of USA TODAY's "Money Quick Tips" videos. Follow her on Twitter: @ReginaLewis.