WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- The Affordable Care Act has had a bit of a rocky start, but it has changed the way you now purchase your health insurance during the open enrollment season.

And, many people find themselves overwhelmed just trying to navigate this marketplace.

Consumer ReportsSenior EditorNancy Metcalf covers health, and she talks about what you need to know to make an informed decision about your healthcare needs.

Nancy says, "We've created a new interactive tool, free of charge. It's called

You can use it right now. It's easy to use. You don't have to register. We don't' know or care who you are, answer a few very simple questions.

What state you live in. What's your income range.How old are you. How many people inyour family. What kind of insurance do you have now. And, we will tell you what to do.

Most likely what we're going to tell you to do is nothing because you already have insurance that complies with the law.

Everyone with Medicare can go out and take a nice walk because you're all set. Most people with employer insurance are all set.

People with bad insurance or no insurance need to be paying attention.

You need to have insurance that starts January 2014. And, in order for that for that to happen, if you're purchasing on the healthcare marketplace, you have to put your order in by December 15, 2013.

If you want to avoid being penalized for not having insurance in 2014, you have to get your order in by February 15, 2014.That way, your coverage will start before the three month clock runs out which is a kind of grace period.

Three things to consider. First of all, what does it cover. A lot of plans that people have now don't cover everything. The plans sold in the marketplace do cover everything.

Number two, what does it cost, both premiums and out of pocket costs.

And number three, what doctor and hospitals are in the network. You know which ones are in the plan you have now.

On the marketplace, you'll be able to search those providers list before you buy."

Read or Share this story: