4. Don't ignore "It depends."
Coverage under Obamacare is not consistent. The upfront cost depends on which plan you select — and how much you use health care will determine your total annual expense.
The health insurance exchange has four tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.
The bronze plan offers the lowest premiums but the least coverage once a worker reaches the deductible and insurance kicks in. On the bronze plan, the provider covers 60 percent of the cost of care and the worker is responsible for 40 percent. This is, of course, after the worker has paid full out-of-pocket costs to reach the deductible.
So, if a worker has a healthy and safe year, out-of-pocket costs will remain low. Combined with the bronze plan's lower premium, this is the most economical choice for those using Obamacare.
Silver, gold, and platinum plans raise premiums but also raise the level of responsibility for the provider to 70, 80, and 90 percent respectively, offering greater protection in expensive and unforeseen health emergencies.
In an ideal world, you'd be on the platinum plan the year you broke your leg and on the bronze plan every other normal and healthy year, giving you the most for your money. But the success of your insurance choice, like the success of Obamacare, is a gamble.
5. Remember Olive Garden ... then forget about it.
Horror stories and tales of triumph have been regular features of the Obamacare debate, and they will continue to be going forward.
Conservatives were crowing earlier this year when restaurant CEOs — including top brass at Olive Garden and Applebees — said their chains would shed jobs and cut back hours because of the law's regulations. And the law's backers have not hesitated to do cherry picking of their own, repeatedly pointing to hard-luck individuals who suffered under the old health care regime and are already better off under the new one.
But while such anecdotes matter tremendously to the people involved, they are — when taken alone — a terrible basis for evaluating a national law that is set to affect nearly every facet of the American economy.
Like nearly every other law, the Affordable Care Act will have its individual winners and losers, but when it comes time for judgment, it's the bigger picture that matters.
6. Patience, patience, and more patience.
Americans won't get their answers on Obamacare any time soon, experts say.
Indeed, the White House decided recently to wait a year to enforce employers' mandate to provide their employees health insurance, and the administration has turned back the clock on a key consumer protection: out-of-pocket expense caps.
Even after the law is implemented, its fate will be far from settled. For example, the efficacy of the state insurance exchanges — which Herrick called the biggest determining factor in the law's success — will be determined largely by how successful they are in persuading people to enroll, especially young, healthy adults.
But while the law is still in its nascent stages, the doomsayers and cheerleaders have not — and will not — wait to make their case.
"I think the challenge is that people want to have something to weigh in on," Pearson said, "and nothing has started yet."