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As parts of the federal government shut down, Obamacare is finally here.

Americans are about to get their first hint of whether Obamacare will work for the 48 million people who lack health insurance and the millions more who buy coverage on their own.

Beginning today and going through March 31, consumers will be able to use a new system to buy health coverage: online insurance exchanges in each state, accessible via HealthCare.gov, that let people compare plans and learn whether they qualify for financial help.

Obamacare guarantees everyone access to coverage, whether they’re sick, healthy, young or old. It establishes a baseline set of benefits and stronger consumer protections. And it offers low and middle-income people help paying for coverage.

In short, it aims to transform the insurance market for people who don’t get benefits at work. Now a skeptical public finally can judge whether it’s a success, as Obama said in a speech last week promoting the health care law.

“You can go to the website. You can check it out. You can see if what I’m saying is true. You can sign up next week. You can sign up next month. You can sign up two months from now, three months from now. But you can sign up,” he said of the exchanges. “See for yourself what the prices are. See for yourself what the choices are. Then make up your own mind.”

This year, 7 million people are expected to use the exchanges to buy private insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Another 9 million are expected to enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, two federal-state health programs for the poor. By 2016, 25 million fewer people will be uninsured than would have been without Obamacare, the CBO projects.

Obama has to hope that millions more make the same decision about the exchanges, especially the approximately 2.7 million younger, healthier people the White House believes are needed to balance the higher medical costs of older, sicker patients.

More than half of the uninsured will be able to get coverage for less than $100 a month, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Prices will vary widely from community to community and from household to household. And people with higher incomes will have to pay the full sticker price.

For more details on Obamacare, click here.

SOURCE: HuffPo | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty