06/11/2013 01:52 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2013

America: Prepare to Get Covered

Just over three years ago, we witnessed the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act, a groundbreaking law that will soon make affordable health insurance available to millions of consumers -- some for the first time ever. But now that the new health care law is here to stay, many Americans may be asking themselves, "What does it mean for me?"

A major change made possible by the Affordable Care Act is that it pairs affordable health coverage options for all Americans with real consumer protections -- including vigorous new standards for insurance companies. Millions of families will become eligible for Medicaid coverage or have financial assistance available to help with the cost of private health plans. And, for the first time, the law makes it illegal for insurance companies to drop anyone from coverage if they get sick, or to discriminate against anyone because of a pre-existing condition. Consumers can no longer be forced into bankruptcy because they've reached an arbitrary "lifetime limit" on benefits.

It will also revolutionize the way we buy insurance. Starting this October, Americans will be able to compare and buy private health insurance plans at new online "marketplaces." All plans are required to cover the basics -- doctor visits, hospital stays, preventive care, prescriptions and more. There is no sales pitch or fine print, just side-by-side comparisons of each plan. And, consumers across the country will be able to talk to an expert -- by phone, on-line, or in-person -- who will help families choose a plan that's right for them.

This system means consumers will no longer be forced into a one-size fits all plan and will instead be able to evaluate the options that fit their budget and unique health situation.

These are life-changing -- and life-saving -- differences for the tens of millions of working families and individuals currently living without insurance because they can't afford it or because they've been denied coverage. But these individuals won't enroll through the health care marketplaces this fall unless they know about them.

The fact is, far too many Americans don't know about the changes made possible by the Affordable Care Act or the new coverage opportunities available to them. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that four in ten Americans (42 percent) are unaware that the law still stands. Fully 12 percent believed the law was repealed by Congress, 7 percent believed it had been overturned by the Supreme Court, and 23 percent simply didn't know enough to say what the status of the law was.

Moving forward, it will be critical to our nation's health care system that we bridge this massive information gap. That's why Enroll America -- a non-partisan and non-profit organization created to reach the millions of Americans who stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act -- has been working with a broad coalition of consumer advocacy groups, companies, and other stakeholders to prepare for the opening of the online marketplaces this October 1. In the coming weeks and months, we'll continue to build the team and resources needed to ensure millions of Americans know about their options and what they mean for their families and pocketbooks.

This summer, Enroll America will launch a consumer-driven, national grassroots effort called "Get Covered America," to begin a just-the-facts conversation about these new changes. With staff and volunteers set to work in communities around the country, we will arm consumers with important information they'll need when they're shopping for insurance -- including how to find a plan that covers the care they need, where they can go to get unbiased, no-nonsense help signing up for coverage, and how they can find out if they qualify for financial assistance.

Get Covered America will engage Americans at their churches, schools, and community events and get neighbors talking to neighbors and friends talking to friends about the opportunity to enroll in affordable health insurance coverage. Consumers will hear from us on their televisions and radios, on their computer screens and smartphones, and in their mailboxes, too.

We know it will be challenging to reach millions of Americans -- but it's too important not to. So you'll be hearing a lot from Enroll America and our partners in the coming months. And while we fully expect there will be bumps in the road -- as there always are with the launch of an ambitious plan -- if we do our jobs right, more Americans than ever before will soon have the peace of mind that comes with having quality, affordable health insurance.