The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal health care law passed in 2010. This massive health reform law made profound changes in the regulation of health care and the health insurance marketplace. It is often called "Obamacare" since it was signed into law and championed by then-President Barack Obama.
The overall goals of the ACA are reducing the cost of health insurance, giving consumers more options, and lowering the uninsured rate. The law tried to create a system that more equally shared the cost of insurance between the federal government, employers, individuals, and families. It also aims to prevent restrictive practices in the health care industry.
The main objective of Obamacare is to reduce medical costs in the U.S. To accomplish this, it included the requirement that nearly every American have health insurance coverage, subsidies for health insurance premiums, and new regulations to the health insurance industry.
For those who do not have health insurance coverage provided by their employer, the ACA set up an online marketplace. In this marketplace (also referred to as "exchanges"), Americans choose from different health insurance plans that best suit their coverage needs.
Obamacare subsidizes the premium costs of individual health insurance plans purchased on the online marketplace to help low-income Americans pay for their insurance. It also makes payments to health care providers in an attempt to keep deductibles relatively low.
Initially, the ACA included a fine for those who did not maintain health insurance, whether through the individual insurance market or through their employer. This was known as an "individual mandate." The reason for forcing everyone to buy a health plan was for the premiums of the young and healthy cover the health costs of those who are older and in poorer health. In 2017, Congress eliminated this fine.
The ACA and supporting regulations granted several new rights to when it comes to Americans and their health insurance. It prohibits insurance companies from:
The law also grants the following privileges to Americans:
If you already have insurance, Obamacare protects you by:
You can choose any doctor within your plan's network, and you can use any emergency services outside of your plan's network. Before seeking medical care, it is important to verify that the doctor or health care professional of your choice is within your insurance network.
You can appeal if your insurer denies you coverage of health services.
No. ACA protections only apply to those who are legally present in the United States. Undocumented immigrants cannot access Obamacare protections. Those protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") are also not covered. In practice, this means that they cannot access low-cost health insurance through the health insurance marketplace. These people also do not qualify for health coverage through Medicaid or Medicare.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, people with the following immigration statuses are legally in the United States:
The intent of Obamacare is to make health care more affordable for everyone. Visit the federal health insurance marketplace to see if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage.
The Marketplace offers four coverage options to help you compare:
Bronze plans typically charge the lowest monthly premiums, which require you to pay more when you receive health care services. Platinum plans, by contrast, charge higher premiums, but will pay more money for you when you receive health care.
For example, you may have to pay $600 per month for a platinum plan and $200 for a bronze plan. Although the platinum plan is more expensive, you will most likely have to pay less money each time you go to the doctor. So if you have appendicitis and you get a hospital bill for $30,000, the platinum plan will cover a larger portion of that bill.
Obamacare has faced several legal challenges and the constitutionality of the law has been before the U.S. Supreme Court multiple times. It has been speculated that the judges nominated by former President Donald Trump may declare it unconstitutional. However, through early 2021, the ACA remains in effect. The only thing that has been removed is the mandate to buy a health insurance policy.