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Overview of the Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called the Affordable Care Act and sometimes colloquially referred to as "Obamacare," is a law passed by Congress that introduced an overhaul of America's healthcare system for the first time in decades. Here we give you an affordable care act summary to help you understand the history of the act and how it affects you.

History and Political Background

Health care was a major campaign discussion point during the 2008 presidential election cycle. Following the election, the Democratic Party won majority control of both houses in Congress as well as control of the White House. After President Obama was elected, he worked to uphold his campaign promise by pushing for major healthcare reform bills to be passed. After months of extensive congressional debate and filibustering, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed what came to be the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

After the law was passed, but before the majority of its measures came into effect in 2014, multiple parties sued the federal government over concerns that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. The lawsuit eventually made its way in 2012 to the US Supreme Court, who voted to uphold most of the major provisions of the law. As a result, the act is in place today.

What Does This Mean For Me?

To avoid penalizing citizens before they have a chance to completely understand the new laws and to give the healthcare industry time to make any updates they may need to comply with the law, the Affordable Care Act will have a slow roll out. New regulations are going into effect every year. For example, the penalty for not having health insurance has been increased slowly.

  • 2013: No penalty in effect
  • 2014: $95 per adult or 1% of family income
  • 2015: $325 per adult or 2% of family income
  • 2016: $695 per adult or 2.5% of family income

It’s important to know that if you pay the penalty, that does not give you insurance coverage. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, consumers have more options than ever. If you’re currently uninsured, go to to fill out a Marketplace application. Then, you’ll know exactly which program you may qualify for: private insurance, subsidized insurance plans, or Medicaid. Even if you have job-based insurance, you can check the Marketplace for more comprehensive plans or plans that offer a better value. Just know that you probably won’t qualify for the lower cost, subsidized plans if you have adequate coverage offered by your employer.

Last Updated: October 10, 2016