Calculate how much Obamacare will cost you

Photo courtesy Kaiser Family Foundation

(MoneyWatch) The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, kicked into high gear last week when the health care exchanges opened for business. Beyond the political controversy over the new health law, people are asking a more practical question: How much does it cost to join?

One way to find the answer to that question is to use a subsidy calculator, built by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit foundation that focuses on healthcare issues.

The calculator is designed to illustrate if you qualify for financial assistance in buying health insurance under Obamacare, and if so, approximately what it costs. Using the tool is fairly straightforward -- you don't have to know a lot of arcane details. Just enter your state of residence, income, and a few details about dependents, and the tool instantly spits out your results.

In my case, for example, I have employer-provided healthcare, so I was not eligible to enter the exchange. But when I changed my details to suggest I didn't have employer healthcare, I was able to see a wealth of information about what I'd need to pay and what the government's tax credit would be.

The results aren't 100 percent accurate and the data for some states appears to be more valid than others, but the tool improves as states release additional details about their implementations of Obamacare. It takes only a few moments to complete, so it's worth your time if you're confused about how you fit into the new program.