Officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or by its shorter version, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obamacare has begun.
The ACA was signed into law in March 2010 as a means of reforming our nation’s healthcare industry. Its goal is to give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance and to slash the growth of U.S. healthcare spending. Enrollment in Obamacare officially started Oct. 1.
What’s It All About?
The current $2.8 trillion cost of health care in the U.S. amounts to just under $9,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation. Obamacare is about expanding affordable healthcare coverage for those who are uninsured or under-insured. About 50 million, or 15 percent, of Americans fit the former category.
The ACA has implications for individuals, families and businesses of all sizes.
Dollars & Sense
ACA provisions take effect through 2020, and insurance policies implemented prior to 2010 are exempt under a grandfather clause. In exchange for new rights and protections, uninsured or under-insured Americans must obtain coverage by 2014, get an exemption, or pay a fee. Starting in 2015, employers with 50 or more full-time employees will be required to insure their workers. Small businesses will receive tax breaks for offering coverage.
- Insurance plans must cover preventive services and provide 10 essential health benefits, including emergency care, hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, immunizations, annual check-ups, and certain screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. These are available to patients at no out-of-pocket cost.
- Obamacare has created state-specific health insurance marketplaces. Also known as exchanges, individuals, families and small businesses go to these online sites to shop for subsidized insurance. If you have health insurance coverage through your employer, you are ineligible for marketplace subsidies.
- 2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines determine levels of cost assistance on the marketplace. Americans earning less than $45,960 per individual or less than $94,200 per family of four may be eligible for free or low-cost insurance through subsidies such as tax credits that cut premium costs and cost-sharing options that reduce copays, coinsurance and deductibles.
ACA Tax Provisions
With Obamacare come tax-related implications:
- Employer mandate: Requires large employers to provide health insurance for their employees by 2015.
- Individual mandate: Requires individuals and families to obtain health insurance by 2014.
- Tax credits: Subsidize costs for low to middle-income Americans and small businesses starting in 2014.
Impact of Obamacare – By the Numbers
Statistics support the need for sweeping health care reform:
- The average health insurance premium has increased 80 percent during the past 10 years.
- Approximately 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are related to medical bills. Obamacare protects Americans by eliminating annual and lifetime coverage limits.
- Uninsured Americans cost the nation’s healthcare system $49 billion a year. Only 12 percent – including families with annual incomes of more than $88,000 – are able to pay hospital bills in full.
- The ACA is projected to reduce the national deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next 20 years.