03/27/2012 09:44 am ET

What the Affordable Care Act Really Means for Consumers

If you've been listening to the uproar about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the healthcare law or "Obamacare," then you're probably scared out of your wits from tales of "death panels" and "government takeover." And you'd have good reason to be concerned -- if those allegations were accurate.

But let's put politics aside for a moment and take a closer look at the changes made so far by the new law. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Important changes have already taken effect to control the cost of health insurance and rein in some of the worst insurance company abuses. For example, insurers must now spend at least 80% of customer premiums on actual healthcare or refund policyholders. It's estimated that we will see $1.4 billion in rebates starting this summer.

As a result of the new health reform law, state insurance departments are now closely reviewing requests from insurers who want to raise rates 10% or more, something many states had never done before.

The new law closed insurance loopholes that could have left you without coverage when you needed it most. Your insurance policy can no longer set a maximum lifetime limit, where your benefits run out when you get hit with a major illness.

There is now a standard, reliable way for you to dispute a benefit decision made by your insurer. And you don't have to worry about having your policy canceled when you get sick.

These are just a few of the positive changes that opponents of the new law don't acknowledge. And there's more to come in 2014 when you won't be denied or charged more for insurance because of your health status. Middle income families will also be able to get help paying for coverage.

As the Supreme Court hears arguments for and against the new law, Americans should consider what these changes -- and the law -- really means for families and decide if we want to put health insurance companies back in charge or have the health insurance system work for consumers.