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What is the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, is a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in the United States in March 2010. The primary goals of the ACA are to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, expand Medicaid eligibility, and reduce the overall number of uninsured individuals. Here are some key components of the Affordable Care Act:

  1. Individual Mandate:
    • The ACA included an individual mandate, requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty when filing their taxes. However, the penalty for not having insurance was reduced to zero dollars starting in 2019.
  2. Health Insurance Marketplaces:
    • The ACA established health insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges) where individuals and small businesses can shop for and purchase private health insurance plans. These marketplaces provide a platform for comparing different plans based on coverage, cost, and other factors.
  3. Medicaid Expansion:
    • The ACA aimed to expand Medicaid eligibility in participating states, allowing more low-income individuals and families to qualify for Medicaid coverage. However, the Medicaid expansion was made optional for states, and as a result, not all states chose to expand their programs.
  4. Protections for Individuals with Pre-existing Conditions:
    • The ACA prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions. This provision ensures that individuals with health issues cannot be discriminated against when seeking health insurance.
  5. Essential Health Benefits:
    • The ACA requires insurance plans to cover essential health benefits, including preventive services, maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health services. This ensures that individuals have access to a comprehensive set of healthcare services.
  6. Dependent Coverage:
    • The law allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26, providing extended coverage for individuals who might otherwise lose insurance after graduating from school.
  7. Employer Mandate:
    • Large employers (applicable large employers or ALEs) are required to offer affordable health insurance coverage to their full-time employees or face potential penalties.
    • * affordable = employee pays no more than 9.12% of his/her household income
      ** minimum value = plan pays at least 60% of cost of covered health services (“
      Bronze” plan)
  8. Subsidies and Tax Credits:
    • The ACA provides subsidies and tax credits to help eligible individuals and families afford health insurance purchased through the health insurance marketplaces.

The ACA has had a significant impact on the U.S. healthcare system, leading to changes in insurance coverage, healthcare delivery, and the overall landscape of healthcare in the country. It has been a subject of political debate and legal challenges since its passage.