Summary of the law

What the Affordable Care Act means for you and your employees

On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into federal law. The most significant change to our health care system since Medicare was enacted in 1965, it's intended to help more people get access to health coverage while improving care.

The ACA will affect your business and your employees in many different ways. Key elements will have an impact on coverage, choice, and quality. As your trusted partner, we're here to help you understand what to expect.

Coverage and its availability

  • All U.S. citizens and legal residents will be eligible for some form of coverage — whether through their employers, the new exchanges, Medicare, or Medicaid.* And they can't be turned down because of a medical condition.
  • People may be eligible for financial assistance if they're unable to afford plans offered through the exchange.
  • Most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. There will be some exceptions for financial hardship, religious objection, immigration status, and certain other circumstances.

Better access to care

  • Statewide exchanges opening in October 2013 will give people more information and more options to choose what's best for them. The exchanges will also make it easier to compare and purchase health plans.

Stronger consumer protections

  • Insurers already can't deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions like asthma and diabetes. Starting in 2014, this protection will be extended to all Americans.
  • Under the ACA, coverage can't have lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits. Annual limits are being phased out so people with chronic illnesses like cancer won't run out of coverage.
  • Companies can no longer cancel coverage when someone gets sick or makes an honest mistake on their application. Insurers can cancel coverage retroactively in the event of fraud or intentional misrepresentation but must provide 30 days' prior notice and the opportunity to appeal.

Improved quality

  • More quality reporting and benefit standards will push insurers to compete based on quality rather than their ability to avoid underwriting risk.
  • Incentive programs and payment method changes will reward care providers for their performance and efficiency, encouraging them to focus on quality improvement and innovation.

To learn more about how health care reform will affect you and your employees:

* The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently began referring to exchanges as health insurance marketplaces. Throughout this site, we refer to the more widely known term of exchange.