The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—is being hailed as a victory for President Barack Obama and healthcare reform, but what does it mean for consumers' pocketbooks?
Here's a breakdown of how the Affordable Care Act affects you:
The uninsured. For the millions of uninsured Americans, the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the individual mandate—the part of the Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to have health insurance—means they'll have to get health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty of $95 a year or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater.
Insurance companies will be required to sell policies to everyone regardless of current or past health issues. As a result, over the next two decades, tens of millions more Americans will get health coverage under the new systems.
"The law certainly facilitates greater access to health insurance for millions of consumers," says David Balto, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.
Americans looking for health insurance will also be able to better shop around for coverage the fits their needs using "health insurance exchanges" that function a lot like online travel agencies such as Expedia.
That is if the law survives past the November election. According to some experts, the Supreme Court's decision will give Republicans and other opponents fresh fodder to campaign on in the months leading up to the election.
The insured. For the other 256 million Americans who already have health insurance through their employers or another source, the impact isn't as dramatic. Parents will still get to keep kids on their insurance plans up to age 26 and many insurers will continue to offer preventative services, such as immunizations, without a co-pay.
While most insurance companies instituted the major provisions of the health care law, there could be changes coming down the pipeline as insurers tweak plans to comply with new regulations, such as covering preventative services without a co-pay. The new regulations almost certainly mean rising premiums, which have already edged up according to experts. That doesn't even take into consideration the overall rising costs of healthcare, which insurers pass on to customers.
"Insurance companies are still free to add to the premium for the additional benefits that they're required to offer," says Caryl Carpenter, professor of health care management at Widener University. "People with insurance can also expect an increase not because of the Affordable Care Act, but just because health care costs are still going up."
[LIVE BLOG: The Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act.]
Seniors on the other hand could see a little break in their premiums as the Affordable Care Act puts some restrictions on how much insurers can vary costs by age.
Those eligible for Medicare. Seniors who fell in the "doughnut hole"—the gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage—will continue to get discounts on their medications.
Those eligible for Medicaid. According to the Court's ruling, expansion of state Medicaid programs is no longer mandatory. So while a greater number of less fortunate Americans would have had access to care under the ACA's Medicaid expansion, that probably won't happen now. Given how fragile many state budgets are, states have not been eager to expand Medicaid because it takes necessary spending away from other things, Carpenter says.
"It's no longer mandatory that [states] expand [Medicaid], and if a voluntary option continues to exist, it may not be exercised," she says. "The consumer who would've gotten coverage [under Medicaid] probably lost out in this decision."
Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter.