In March 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. But that was not the end of healthcare reform; in many ways it was the beginning. In the future we can probably expect to see even more changes in response to the needs of the citizens and the costs of medical care. As a healthcare consumer, it’s important for you to stay abreast of the changes as they occur, including legislative laws as they come into effect.

The Affordable Care Act Goals

Despite the various changes over time in the Affordable Care Act, the original goals of the program have largely remained the same. Here are the highlights:

  • Control healthcare costs and prevent them from becoming too cost prohibitive for the average person to get the preventative care and medical treatment they need throughout their life.
  • Make healthcare universally available for all Americans.
  • Improve the level of healthcare and to provide the highest quality care possible.
  • Create a more consumer friendly environment when it comes to making healthcare choices.
  • Leverage state-based healthcare options through private exchanges in an online marketplace to regulate private insurance companies. Because the marketplace includes insurance plans offered by numerous companies, consumers can find the solutions they need all in one place.

The Individual Mandate

The individual mandate is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. This mandate requires that every citizen must have health insurance. The stated reasoning for this is that it makes it possible to offer universal healthcare coverage at the lowest possible cost. To this end, every citizen must have employer or government offered health insurance.

Healthcare Reform as It Affects You

The healthcare reforms made to date affect the vast majority of Americans, even if they have not yet had to seek medical care. For some who historically could not afford any form of health insurance, the Affordable Care Act has been life changing. Many are now able to purchase insurance that enables them to seek preventative care, rehabilitative treatment, surgical procedures, routine medical checkups, and much more.

Expanded Medicaid Coverage

Medicaid coverage is available to nonelderly adults who earn less than a certain percentage of the federal poverty level—this amount varies by state. In addition, subsidized insurance coverage is available through the states’ healthcare marketplaces for individuals who do not have access to employer offered insurance. Subsidized insurance coverage is also available to small businesses.

Before Healthcare Reform Came Into Law

There has been a measurable positive effect from the increase in marketplace enrollment among Americans. Before the healthcare reforms and Medicaid expansions, a large percentage of Americans did not have adequate access to proper medical services. In fact, from 9%-19% of nonelderly persons went completely without any medical care due to the costs involved. There was an even higher percentage among those who now qualify for marketplace subsidies. Those who are currently eligible for Medicaid had the highest percentage of all for not seeking medical care when needed.