President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010. This law is intended to make sweeping changes to healthcare in the United States. Many of the law’s provisions are already in effect, while others will come in the next few years.

What is healthcare reform? The law continues to evolve, but let’s look at some of the basics.

Goals of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act attempts to:

  • Provide universal access to healthcare for Americans
  • Control the rising costs of healthcare
  • Regulate the private insurance industry through things like state-based private exchanges – an online marketplace that brings together state-approved insurance plans from multiple companies so consumers can shop for individual insurance plans
  • Improve the quality of healthcare
  • Make healthcare choices more consumer friendly and easier to understand.

The Individual Mandate

At the core of the Affordable Care Act is the “individual mandate.” This requires everyone to have health insurance. This is a topic of debate and legal challenges. The mandate is intended as a way to allow for universal healthcare coverage while keeping the cost of that care affordable. Under this provision, everyone must have health insurance on their own, through an employer or from a government program. Anyone without coverage will have to pay a penalty.

Who Healthcare Reform Affects

Healthcare reform affects virtually all Americans, old or young, working or unemployed, single or married. The financial impact of the law will vary based on age and current health status. The ultimate goals of healthcare reform are to increase the number of insured and to increase the quality of care while trying to stabilize or reduce costs.

Learn more about how healthcare reform affects individuals and employers.