Affordable Care Act

All Americans should have health care insurance. That's what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as "health care reform," is all about. The goal is to make health insurance available to everyone, regardless of medical history or ability to pay.


Several parts of the law are already in effect. For example, you can now cover children up to age 26. It's also illegal for insurance companies to put a cap, or a "lifetime maximum," on your coverage.


Some of the biggest changes began on January 1, 2014, including the following:

  • Most Americans will be required to have health insurance. This is called the "individual mandate." If you don't have insurance, a penalty of $95 per adult will be applied when you file your 2014 government tax return.* The amount will increase significantly in 2015 and 2016.
  • Insurance companies won't be able to refuse to cover you due to "pre-existing conditions." They can't charge you more either.
  • You'll be able to shop for health insurance through online marketplaces, or "exchanges".
  • All health insurance plans must meet minimum coverage and cost levels.
  • Group health coverage from an employer cannot require more than a 90-day waiting period. A waiting period is the amount of time that must pass before coverage starts.

*The 2016 tax penalty for going without coverage is 2.5% of your income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child. You’ll pay the higher of the amounts. In future years, the fee is adjusted for inflation.