The Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare," is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

The ACA was enacted with the goals of increasing the quality and affordability of health insurance, lowering the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reducing the costs of health care for individuals and the government. It introduced a number of mechanisms — including mandates, subsidies, and insurance exchanges — meant to increase coverage and affordability. The law also requires insurance companies to cover all applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or sex. Additional reforms aimed to reduce costs and improve health care outcomes by shifting the system towards quality over quantity through increased competition, regulation, and incentives to streamline the delivery of health care.

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA's individual mandate as an exercise of Congress's taxing power in the case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. However, the court held that states cannot be forced to participate in the ACA's Medicaid expansion under penalty of losing their current Medicaid funding. Since the ruling, the law and its implementation have continued to face challenges in Congress and federal courts, and from certain state governments, conservative advocacy groups, and some small business organizations. (Source: Wikipedia. Click here to see Wikipedia's full entry on Obamacare.)

Photo above: A crowd including Vice President Joe Biden, Reps. John Dingell and Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid look on as President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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