The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is more commonly known by a shortened version of its full name, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is also referred to in a derogatory manner as “Obamacare” in deference to the U.S. President who signed the Act into law on March 23, 2010. The full text of the Affordable Care Act is 960 pages long and contains technical jargon, legal phrasing, and obscure text that most people would find impossible to wade through and decipher.
After signing the Act into law, the past three years have been spent selling the concept of the healthcare program to the general public, attempting to convince them of the “rightness” of mandatory healthcare for every American citizen, tweaking and refining various aspects of the law, requiring changes to existing healthcare laws, policies, and programs, and promoting January 1, 2014 as the day all Americans will become covered by some form of health insurance.
Some key points, crucial facts, and interesting details of the Affordable Care Act that you should be aware of are:
- Most people won’t have to pay the penalty ($95 per adult, half that per child) for not having health insurance coverage because they either already have adequate health insurance through an employer or their gross annual income falls below the minimum for penalty assessments.
- “Open enrollment” in insurance plans offered by government-operated healthcare exchanges and marketplaces (like healthcare.gov) will be occurring from October 2013 to March 2014.
- Individuals can no longer be denied health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and they cannot be charged a higher premium because of those conditions.
- The uninsured, underpaid, or unemployed may possibly qualify for enrollment in Medicaid or some form of financial assistance or government subsidy for obtaining insurance coverage. There will even be tax credits for enrolling in the government-sponsored health insurance marketplace plans.
- Preventive screenings, vaccines, birth control, and routine tests for common ailments will either be free of charge or substantially less costly than before the ACA went into effect.
- Insurance companies can no longer rescind coverage based on technical paperwork errors on consumer applications for health insurance.
- Annual and lifetime coverage limits have been abolished under the Affordable Care Act.
- Physician payments will correlate to the value of the care they provide rather than the volume of patients they see (this is an ACA implementation slated for 2015).
- The prices for health insurance through the federal marketplaces (and some private carriers) will now be based on three factors: your age, whether or not you smoke, and where you reside.
On October 1, 2013, the federal government opened their health insurance portal, HealthCare.Gov. The Affordable Care Act, among its many provisions, declared that the individual States could create and operate their own health insurance marketplaces (exchanges) through which consumers could purchase coverage. As of mid-October, only half the States had decided to either open their own marketplace or offer insurance through the federal marketplace.
The government’s healthcare portal has been plagued with problems since it opened. The massive number of individuals attempting to access the site for information and coverage overwhelmed the servers and has caused frequent downtime and service interruptions. This has prevented people from finding out what they need to know through the government-run source they are supposed to be using for assistance. In the weeks since the opening of the site, major progress has been made in resolving these problems. Blog posts provide updates on the corrections and improvements to the website several times a week.
If you have questions about the Affordable Care Act and what it means to you, you can visit any of the following websites: