The law has already helped you in one way. If you are below age 26 and can’t get health insurance through an employer, you can stay under your parents’ coverage. Before the law, you would lose eligibility when you turned 19 (or 23 if you were a student). If you are between ages 26 and 30, you will be able to buy a policy on one of the new insurance exchanges, even if you have a preexisting medical condition (and many people in their 20s do).
The flip side of better access to insurance is that you will now be required to have it. Starting in 2014, you will face a penalty if you choose to go without coverage. It will start out small – the greater of $95 or 1% of your income for 2014 - but will rise in stages to reach the greater of $695 or 2.5% of taxable income for 2016. However, if you are below age 30, you can satisfy the requirement with a low-cost policy that has a high deductible (around $6,000).
Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. is a professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law and professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health at Drexel University. He also writes for The Field Clinic blog.