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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama and was amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed into law on March 30, 2010. The ACA has put many changes into effect that impact all aspects of the healthcare system.

A Brief History of the Affordable Care Act

While campaigning in the general election of 2008, future president Barack Obama made healthcare reform one his top priorities, and he began work on a reform plan soon after his inauguration in January of 2009. Throughout 2009 and into early 2010, the United States Senate and House of Representatives both worked on healthcare reform bills. Due to a variety of political circumstances, the Senate's healthcare bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was ultimately enacted on March 23, 2010 with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act amendment following days later. This amendment was necessary in order to gain House approval for the PPACA.

The Affordable Care Act's primary goals are to increase health insurance coverage in the United States and the quality and affordability of health insurance while also increasing the quality of medical care provided to patients. The law attempts to accomplish this through a variety of provisions including expansion of Medicaid eligibility, an individual mandate that requires the vast majority of legal residents of the United States to obtain health insurance, an employer mandate that requires large employers to provide affordable health insurance for full time employees, and what's known as guaranteed issue, which prohibits insurers from denying applicants coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

There are both proponents and critics of the ACA, but we will not get into that discussion here. Our goal is to offer an objective and unbiased summary of how the Affordable Care Act exists currently and how patients, employers, and providers are affected. We will also discuss the ways in which the ACA is going to be funded as that has implications for all stakeholder groups.

Provisions of Obamacare

Effective dates for the many ACA provisions vary with some beginning as soon as the Act was signed into law and others phased in through 2020. However, many significant provisions, including the individual mandate, are effective in 2014. While detailing every provision of the Act is outside our scope, here we'll briefly explore the main provisions and how they affect patients, employers, and providers. Please click on the links in each area to explore the topics in further detail.

ACA provisions that impact PATIENTS include:

ACA provisions that impact EMPLOYERS include:

ACA provisions that impact PROVIDERS include:

Who Pays for the Affordable Care Act?

The ACA is being funded by a variety of taxes, fees, and other offsets, some of which we've mentioned already like the increased Medicare tax rate on high income individuals and the Excise (Cadillac) Tax. Here is an overview of the primary funding methods.

Essential QSA Knowledge

Hopefully this has given you a general understanding of the Affordable Care Act. A big thing for consumers to keep in mind is that if you currently receive coverage through an employer, most likely not much will change in terms of your health benefits or how you receive them. However, if you are uninsured or are currently purchasing an individual plan, the health insurance marketplace and other requirements of the ACA will most likely change the way you obtain and maintain health insurance coverage.

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