Forget about fifth grade; are you smarter than a fourth grader or even a third grader? Chances are good that if you were on the popular quiz show and were asked anything about Obamacare and the upcoming changes to your family’s health insurance, you’d know about as much as most grownups: not too much.

Making matters worse, rumors about Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, as it’s officially known, have been flying around like pigeons in downtown Baltimore since before President Obama signed this bill into law in 2010.

One of the first rumors had to do with death panels of bureaucrats who would have the power to decide questions of life and death. Exaggerated lie.

Maybe you heard the one about the microchip, which when implanted in your hand would allow the government to know all your personal business and track your whereabouts. We checked; not true.

Have you heard that the IRS is coming after your home if you don’t sign up for Obamacare. Not true, at least mostly not true.

The scare tactics have gotten ugly at times. That’s why the Afro American Newspapers will be informing you about everything you’ll need to know to protect the health and wellbeing of yourself and your family. We will feature reliable information about what to do, when, and who to call if you need help in our newspapers, on our website, and in upcoming supplements.

We will be holding a series of town hall meetings throughout the community to give you the no-nonsense information you need to know.

For starters, let’s begin with the most basic question: What is Obamacare? This federal law requires everyone to have health insurance by January 1, 2014. In some states like Maryland, health insurance exchanges will be open for enrollment, beginning in October 2013, to make it easier to shop for health plans. Think of a mall for health care coverage.

In Maryland, the exchange is called the Maryland Health Connection. It’s a new marketplace that will offer health insurance and coverage options to individuals, families, and small employers. This exchange or marketplace will include a call center and a navigator program to provide in-person assistance statewide. For more information about MHC, go to

Why do we need it? Obamacare will provide health insurance to many more people. Unless 1) you work for a company that provides health insurance, or 2) you can afford to pay for it on your own and you have no pre-existing conditions, or 3) you have Medicaid, or 4) you’re 65 years or older and have Medicare, you haven’t been able to afford health care coverage. Either the hospital picked up the costs or you filed bankruptcy.

The Maryland Health Connection will provide health coverage options to everyone, including access to public assistance programs such as Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Insurance Program as well as health plans offered by private carriers.

And yes, the IRS will penalize those who fail to enroll in a plan. But they probably won’t be confiscating homes and personal possessions. More about all that later.

Stay tuned.