Obamacare Explained

Obamacare. You’ve heard the term over and over throughout the years, but what exactly is Obamacare? Obamacare is an unofficial name for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Affordable Care Act) which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The Affordable Care Act was implemented to provide more Americans with affordable health insurance, regulate the health industry, and improve the quality of health insurance and health care in the United States.

What does Obamacare do?

In 2013, over 44 million Americans were living without health insurance because of its high cost. Interestingly enough, a majority of these Americans were working families. Although Obamacare does have its pros and cons, it accomplishes the following and more:

  • Expands Medicaid eligibility so low income families could pay for the cost of health insurance;

  • Requires that all Americans have health insurance through a private provider or a federally assisted program;

  • Offers cost assistance and affordable quality premiums through the health insurance marketplace;

  • Allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26;

  • Ends lifetime limits on health insurance coverage;

  • No longer allows healthcare providers to drop you if you become ill, even if you made an honest mistake on your health care application;

  • Makes it illegal to be denied coverage because of a past illness or be charged more because you are a woman; and

  • Reforms Medicare by providing Medicare recipients with new protections and benefits.

The Health Insurance Marketplace

The Health Insurance Marketplace is the online marketplace which allows Americans to shop for affordable health care insurance. Americans will enter their personal information to determine whether they are eligible for reduced out-of-pocket costs, lower premiums, or even Medicaid.

You must refer to your state’s marketplace to shop for health care insurance at any time to determine your eligibility, however, you can only enroll during the enrollment period at healthcare.gov. The open enrollment period for 2014 ended in March, but open enrollment for 2015 begins November 15th, 2014. Since Obamacare requires you to have some sort of health insurance, make sure to enroll or else you will be paying a penalty for each month you are without health insurance. This penalty will be 1% of your income or $95 per adult, whichever is greater. In 2015, the penalty increases to 2% of your income or $325 per adult.

How Obamacare Affects Business Owners

The size of the business you own will determine the type of penalties you will incur if you decide to opt out of providing health care insurance for your employees.

If you are a business owner with:

  • 25 full-time employees or less - you will receive tax breaks of up to 50% when providing insurance through the health insurance marketplace to your employees.

  • 50 full-time employees or more - you have the option to provide insurance that meets Obamacare standards or pay a tax of $2000 per employee starting January 2015 (for all but the first 30 employees).

  • 99 full-time employees or less - you should shop for insurance on your state’s health insurance marketplace that will provide cheaper alternatives. By providing health insurance to early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64, you may be eligible for federal financial assistance.

Healthcare reform will continue to trickle out until 2020. As the years have gone by since its inception, Obamacare has significantly decreased the number of uninsured Americans and continues to do so.