The Affordable Health Care Act: How We Got Here
The Affordable Health Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It was a landmark piece of legislation. It was the first major reform to the nation's health care industry in nearly 50 years. And it made fundamental changes to how Americans would receive and pay for health care.
The goal of the law was for everybody to have health insurance and to expand insurance coverage to an additional 30 million people in the United States.
The law addressed this in two key ways, Robert Schapiro, Dean and Professor of Constitutional Law at the Emory University Law School, explained.
"One was that insurance companies have to sell you insurance even if you were sick or had any other kind of pre-existing condition," Schapiro said. "The other part was, the federal law said, everybody has to buy insurance because the concern was if the insurance companies have to sell it to you, people might just wait until they were very sick, and if only sick people are buying insurance, then it gets very expensive. So what you need is for people to buy insurance even when they’re healthy, and if a few of them happen to be sick, there will be enough money to pay for insurance for them."
The law was a signature achievement for President Obama. It could potentially define his presidency the way Franklin Roosevelt is known for the New Deal and Lyndon Johnson is known for the Great Society.
But it was significant for another reason, too. It was the first bill to become law without a supporting vote from the opposition party.
Almost immediately, critics began calling the law "Obamacare." They also began looking for ways to repeal the law.
Numerous lawsuits were filed against the individual mandate. The individual mandate requires Americans to have health coverage by 2014. If they don't, they will have to pay a fine. Critics claimed that Congress, which passed ACA, did not have the authority to penalize citizens for not buying something like health insurance.
The challenge eventually made it to the Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments on the case in March. It released its ruling on Thursday, the final day of the Court's 2011-2012 session. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate. The Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional based on Congress' authority to impose taxes.
Read Kid Reporter Andrew Liang's story for more on the Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate.
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