Everything To Know About The Affordable Care Act & Its Future

Photographed by Megan Madden.
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will once again hear a case on whether or not the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is considered constitutional. The case was brought up by Republican leaders who believe that the ACA became unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the health care act requirement in 2017. Congress dropped the penalty for U.S. residents not being insured to $0 in 2017, which a claim from the New Orleans federal appeals court in late 2019 is now capitalizing on. The court lawsuit says that the ACA's individual mandate did abide by regulatory laws and therefore, Republican-led states believe the ACA should be tossed out altogether. Still, Democrats are urging justices to hear an appeal led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Under Becerra, left-leaning constituents are urging the court to look into the appeal now, rather than explore it later this year and continue the case through the 2020 election.
But, this won’t be the first time the ACA has been challenged since it was introduced: in 2012, the Supreme Court voted 5-to-4 that Americans should pay a penalty should they not be insured. The ruling was once-again challenged in 2015 and upheld.
The ACA was introduced by former President Barack Obama and the Act is more commonly referred to as “Obamacare” because of this. Obama introduced the idea of affordable healthcare so that healthcare would be more widely available to those who needed it the most, i.e. those within a certain percentage of the poverty line and those with pre-existing medical conditions, the latter of which are at risk for being denied other forms of health insurance because of those very conditions.
Ahead of what is sure to be a very public back-and-forth between the Democratic and Republican parties on where the ACA stands in terms of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision, we’ve answered the following questions on the basics of the ACA.

What Is The Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act is also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA. It is a type of health insurance introduced by former President Barack Obama, which is why it's popularly known as “Obamacare.” The goals of the ACA are: First, to provide healthcare coverage to U.S. residents living between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level; Second, to expand Medicaid coverage to U.S. residents bringing in an income below 138% of the federal poverty level; Third, to offer support to medical care devices that will contribute the overall decline in health care costs.

When Was The Affordable Care Act Passed?

The Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010 by former President Barack Obama. It was, and still is, meant as an affordable health insurance option for U.S. residents who aren’t able to qualify or afford more widely used insurance carriers. In the ten years since the ACA was introduced, it’s been challenged by Republican lawmakers for the same reasoning multiple times: while the penalty for not being insured no longer exists, the Supreme Court voted 5-to-4 that a penalty should be upheld if Americans were not insured in both 2012 and 2015.

What Happens To The Affordable Care Act If It's Repealed?

As of 2020, there has been no replacement for the ACA should it be appealed. While President Donald Trump has spoken at length about an alternative to the Act — the unofficial term “Trumpcare” has floated around the internet for several years — there is no official equivalent in place at the moment. There was an attempt to bring a bill known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to light in 2017, but while it was passed by the House of Representatives, it was killed by the Senate. The AHCA would have essentially been “Trumpcare,” the closest Trump would’ve come to his version of the ACA. If the ACA is repealed, the roughly 20 million-plus people who have Obamacare in the U.S. would lose it.

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