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What Is The Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

Explore the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Benefits, subsidies, coverage expansion, and ongoing debates shaping US healthcare reform.

The Affordable Care Act
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What is the ACA?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), most commonly referred to as Obamacare, is a healthcare reform law that the federal government passed in 2010. The law includes a number of provisions that are designed to make health care more affordable and accessible for Americans.

The ACA has helped millions of Americans get coverage. In fact, the law has been credited with reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured by more than 20 million. The law delivers subsidies that provide financial help to aid low- and middle-income Americans pay for low-cost coverage, and it expands Medicaid coverage for low-income adults.

Surprisingly, the ACA has been quite controversial since it was passed. The law has been the subject of numerous legal challenges. Some argue that the law goes too far in its efforts to provide health care access, while others contend that it does not do enough.

Under both the Trump administration and the Biden administration changes to the law have been made including removing the individual mandate, which penalized taxpayers for not having coverage, and expanding access to short-term health insurance plans. The Biden administration has said that it plans to make further changes to the law in order to improve it.

What Are the Benefits of the ACA?

There are a number of benefits to the ACA. First, the law helps people get health insurance coverage. This is especially important for people with pre-existing conditions, who often have trouble getting medical coverage. The law also helps people afford health care by providing subsidies to help with the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, the law requires that insurance companies cover a number of essential health benefits, such as maternity care and mental health services. Finally, the law has been shown to marginally reduce the overall cost of health care.

Does the ACA Provide Free Health Coverage?

No, the ACA does not provide free medical coverage.

However, the law does help people afford coverage by providing subsidies through the federal government as well as some state governments to help with the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

What Are the Requirements for Qualifying for a Subsidy Under the ACA?

In order to be eligible for subsidies under the ACA, you must be enrolled in a health insurance plan that is offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace. You must also have an annual household income that falls below a certain threshold. The chart below details those thresholds as they relate to household size.

The Health Insurance Marketplace

The health insurance marketplace is a key provision of the law that helps people get medical coverage. The marketplace offers a range of health insurance plans, and people can choose the plan that best meets their needs. The United States government offers most people and families subsidies through the marketplace to help low and middle-income people afford their premiums.

Plan Types

Bronze Plan:

  • Lowest monthly premium
  • Highest deductible cost when you need care
  • Good choice for: People and families who want low-cost coverage from worst-case medical scenarios, like serious sickness or injury.

Silver Plan:

  • Moderate monthly premium
  • Moderate deductible cost when you need care
  • Good choice if: You qualify for “extra savings” — or, if not, if you’re willing to pay a slightly higher monthly premium than Bronze to have more of your routine care covered.

Getting extra savings with a Silver plan

  • People who qualify for cost-sharing reductions must pick a silver plan to get extra savings.

Gold Plan:

  • High monthly premium
  • Lower deductibles when you need care

Good choice for: People requiring a lot of regular care and are willing to pay more each month to have more costs covered when you get medical treatment.

Platinum Plan:

  • Highest monthly premium
  • Lowest deductible cost when you get care
  • Good choice for: People who usually require constant care and are willing to pay higher monthly premiums.

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