Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
|Public Law Number
Enacted - Signed by the President
Other names for this bill...
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also is known as...
Major provisions of the bill
The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act does several things to make health care more accessible to Americans...
We'll expand on these topics below...
More people can be insured
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does the following to make it easier for most Americans to obtain health care coverage...
Insurance is better and safer
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act protects people from previously common insurance industry practices...
Online exchanges make it easy to shop
As of 2014, each state is required to provide an easy way to shop for and compare health insurance policies from various companies. Those "marketplaces" are what the Affordable Care Act refers to as "Exchanges."
It's the same concept as a travel website that lets you compare airline flights or hotels, but with important differences.
For one thing, any policy offered on an exchange will be required to meet certain conditions regarding what they offer. These include requirements on...
For another thing, using the exchange will allow you to receive a discount (the Exchange calls it a subsidy) on your policy based on your income.
Also, you cannot be turned down, regardless of your age or health.
You are not required to buy your health insurance through the exchange. However, that will be the only way you'll be able to receive a subsidy and ensure your policy meets the above standards.
Most people will be required to buy insurance
Starting in 2014, most people are required to pay a penalty tax if they don't have health insurance that meets the law's minimum requirements.
For 2014 the tax will be small - the greater of $95 or 1 percent of your income. By 2016 it will increase to $695 or 2.5 percent of your income. The tax only applies to those with an income high enough to afford insurance. As previously mentioned, those who cannot afford insurance may receive subsidies to help pay for it.
Those living in poverty would receive free health care
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act tries to ensure that every American can afford health care. However, it does so in different ways based on your (or your family's) income...
As shown in the above chart, if you make less than the federal poverty level, the law does not require you to purchase insurance. Rather, it simply makes you eligible for Medicaid - virtually free health care.
Medicaid is administered by each state independently, and each state sets its own eligibility rules - with limits typically well below the poverty level. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, anyone earning less than the poverty level would now be eligible for Medicaid. The federal government would pay virtually the entire cost of this Medicaid Expansion.
Physician Payments Sunshine Act
This section of the law (Section 6002) requires that makers of medical products disclose payments or gifts given to health care providers. The information is available to the public.
Supreme Court upholds Obamacare but limits Medicaid Expansion
In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services). The decision affected two key components of the law.
It ruled that the mandate - requiring people to maintain a minimum level of insurance - was constitutional.
However, the court struck down the requirement that states expand their Medicaid programs (even though there would be little cost to the states).
As of 2014, approximately half of the 50 states have accepted Medicaid Expansion. Most residents of those states now have health care coverage.
In the states that rejected Medicaid Expansion, most people who earn too little to qualify for subsidies (i.e. less than the federal poverty level) yet too much to qualify for their state's Medicaid program, have remained uninsured.
The ACA allows strict limits on abortion coverage
The Medicaid part of the law contains a provision known as the Hyde Amendment - which prevents federal money from being used for abortions. Because each state administers its own Medicaid program, states still can allow for abortions. They just need to use state money to pay for them.
Those who purchase policies through the exchange also face restrictions. Insurance plans offered through the exchanges are not required to provide coverage for abortions. In fact, the law allows states to states to pass their own laws that prohibit any plans on their exchanges from covering abortions.
For more on the details of abortion and the Affordable Care Act, and to find out the law in your state, see this Kaiser Family Foundation report.
Note: In most cases, there are exceptions for pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother and those that are the result of rape or incest.
Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took effect, there have been more than 50 attempts to repeal it, weaken it, or to restrict funding and make it difficult to administer. None have succeeded. They include...
To read a description of every Obamacare provision in plain english, click here.