The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as its more politically charged name, Obamacare, has been in effect since 2010. But the cornerstone portion of the legislation, the individual mandate, was on shaky ground until the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality this summer. So…
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as its more politically charged name, Obamacare, has been in effect since 2010. But the cornerstone portion of the legislation, the individual mandate, was on shaky ground until the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality this summer.
So what does the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mean for you, outside of all the political posturing?
It means different things for different people, but at its most basic level, it means that all Americans must have insurance.
If you don’t have insurance, open enrollment under the ACA will begin in October 2013, and Americans have through 2014 to buy insurance before facing penalties.
Every American must obtain insurance in 2014 or it will cost each person $95 or 1 percent of his or her income, whichever is higher. For a family, the penalty is $285 per household or 1 percent of income in 2014. In 2015, the individual penalty rises to $325, or 2 percent of income, and in 2016 it rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income. The penalties, which are assessed through annual taxes, get steeper each year by the cost-of-living adjustment.
Some states and the federal government will set up online exchanges—places where people can look for insurance coverage and compare plans. You can already compare insurance coverage options at HealthCare.gov, where you can learn more about the ACA.
If you already have health insurance through an employer, there are other portions of the law, some already in effect, that will impact your health insurance.
The big question that politicians and pundits wrestle over is the true cost of the legislation. Will it mean higher or lower health insurance costs? Will it mean more congested waiting rooms and waning care? Will it mean an expansion of the medical industry?
Until the law is fully implemented, it’s hard to tell.
Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.
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