How will the Affordable Care Act affect the middle class?

COLUMBIA (WACH) - It has been reported that much of the cost of the Affordable Care Act will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the middle class.

But who exactly is part of this hard to define group?

"I put the middle class typically in that $40-50,000 a year to the 80,90,$100,000 a year. It's not very well defined. But it's actually these are the folks who pay the taxes." says Ernie Csiszar, a clinical professor at USC.

And with all the fancy talk and technical terms aside, what will really be the biggest change the middle class may see after the Affordable Care Act kicks in?

"That they may not get coverage through their employer. By far I think, the most significant change. It will force them to make choices of their own. And if you go on the exchange you will find, even when they're up and fully running - and I believe eventually they will be up and running, you'll find comparisons between plans to be very, very difficult." explains Csiszar.

So if you fall into this large "middle class" category and you are faced with the task of having to choose a health plan, what should your very first step be?

"I think first of all, figuring out what your budget is going to be. Both in terms of the employer's contribution, if you're lucky enough to be covered by an employer currently, or in terms of your own income. How much can you really afford on health care?" Csiszar advises.

And you need to take into account a variety of factors.

"Don't just look at the premium at that point. Also think about the deductible and the co-pays and the co-insurance and all the other costs that go with it." advises Csiszar.

"Other costs" may include the ever important cost of your medications.

"If you take very expensive prescription drugs, it's really important to make sure that the plan you pick covers those drugs. Because one thing that's allowed here are differences in terms of what the plans decide are the expensive drugs they will cover in full." says Jacqueline Fox, an associate professor at USC Law.

And while all of this information may seem very overwhelming, the Affordable Care Act is turning out to be a good think for some. I spoke with an attorney here in Columbia who says he is about to choose his plan on the Health Exchange and it looks like it will save him a lot of money."

Edward Longshore has his own private practice and also has pre-existing medical conditions.

He says the Affordable Care Act is a saving grace.

"For someone like me that's an entrepreneur or a small business owner, or if you want to go out and create your own startup, it's the only way - if you have a pre-existing medical condition - that you can actually afford to do that." Longshore states.

Because as things stand right now, Edward's health care costs are taking a huge chunk out of his business.

"Before the Affordable Care Act came into play, I was looking at roughly 50% of my cost of doing business as a private business owner, as a small business owner, as an attorney, were going towards health care. Roughly between $15-$20,000 a year were my health care costs." says Longshore.

And due to the Affordable Care Act, his health costs will decrease significantly.

"Under the plan that I'm currently looking at through Blue Cross that's provided under the Affordable Care Act, my premium is going to drop from about $1,100 a month down to $300 and something a month. About $3990 a month. And my deductible will drop from $2,500 a year down to $1,200 a year." Longshore explains.

But while the Affordable Care Act is turning out to be very beneficial for Edward, I did speak with some business owners who don't think the Act is a good idea.

The business owners did not wish to appear on camera but said they want to provide coverage to their employees, and the Act is making it too expensive to do that.

So while everyone may not agree on whether the act is good or bad, it is acting as a major helping to some Edward.