What Is the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act guarantees that, beginning in 2014, health insurance companies cannot deny health insurance coverage to an individual based on a pre-existing condition. They must give coverage to anyone who applies, and it cannot cost more if you are sick. The cost of health insurance premiums cannot vary based on health status for anyone. Premiums can vary only based on age, geography, family size and tobacco use. The law also restricts how much premiums can vary based on age.

You have until March 31 to enroll in health insurance before you are subject to the law’s tax penalty for not having coverage. For individuals, the penalty would start at $95 or up to 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, and rise to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, by 2016. For families this year the penalty is $285 or 1 percent of income. That will grow in 2016 to $2,085 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater. The requirement to have coverage can be waived for several reasons, including financial hardship or religious beliefs.  It has been decided to waive the individual mandate penalty for 2014 for some people in the individual insurance market whose plans were being canceled.

As of Jan. 1, insurers are not allowed to deny coverage or charge more based on a pre-existing medical condition or place annual limits on medical coverage of essential health benefits.