The fate of the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform law enacted in 2010, will be unveiled Thursday after months of anticipation. But before the nine Supreme Court justices announce their decision, which may flip the law on its head, a clear understanding of the complex law is in order.
Obamacare, as it's been branded, aims to expand health coverage to more Americans, reduce the amount they pay for insurance, and trim the $2.6 trillion paid annually in the United States for healthcare.
The law's central and most controversial provision is the individual mandate, requiring nearly all Americans to have health insurance and issuing fines to those who do not. To help achieve this, the law expands access to government healthcare programs for children, the poor, and the elderly. The bill makes denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions illegal and creates a temporary plan for those people until 2014.
The law also attempts to make it easier for people to obtain and keep private insurance—coverage not obtained through an employer—because the high cost of such plans is financially out of reach for many Americans. The law gives tax credits to small businesses (those with 25 or fewer employees) that provide health insurance for their employees and requires insurance companies to cover young adults up to age 26 under their parents' plans.
Obamacare would also create state insurance exchanges, starting in 2014, which aim to make buying health insurance more transparent and user-friendly. These exchanges are essentially websites where individuals plug in their income and health characteristics and given easily understood options—plans of private insurance companies of varying price and quality.
Here's a look at the Affordable Care Act by the numbers:
2.5 million. For young people, it used to be that gaining a college degree meant losing health coverage under your parent's insurance plan. But since September 2010, millions more young adults have been able to keep their insurance coverage to age 26.
2.1 billion. That's the money saved by almost 4 million seniors on their prescription drugs. On average, that translates into $600 in savings for seniors who hit the gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage, also known as the "donut hole."
93 percent. The percentage of Americans who would have health coverage by 2022. Currently 82 percent of Americans are insured.
$2.6 trillion. How much the U.S. spends on health care each year.
$1.1 trillion. The net cost of the Affordable Care Act over the next 10 years. Despite the hefty price tag, the Congressional Budget Office estimates implementation would shave about the same amount off the federal deficit over the next 20 years.
33 million. The number of uninsured Americans who would have coverage by 2022, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. Without the Affordable Care Act, 60 million Americans will have no health insurance by 2022.
44 percent. The proportion of Americans with an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, according to the May Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.
Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter.