What Is the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act, enacted in March 2010, is the sum of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which implemented health insurance reforms that expanded and improved Medicaid programs, according to Medicaid.gov. The applicable changes took place on Jan. 1, 2014.

One of the biggest changes to Medicaid coverage under this Act are uniform federal income standards for Medicaid approval across the country, according to Medicaid.gov. Prior to this, the income requirements for Medicaid approval varied from state to state.

The Act also forces health insurance providers to cover children with pre-existing conditions and allows young adults up to age 26 to be covered under their parents’ health care plans, says Medicaid.gov. It limits the circumstances under which insurers can withdraw insurance coverage from an individual and gives consumers the right to appeal decisions made by health insurance companies.

The act also bans lifetime coverage limits, stops unreasonable premium hikes by making insurance companies justify increases, and limits the amount of premium revenue that’s spent on administrative costs by health insurance companies. It provides no-cost preventative care, protects the consumer’s right to choose a doctor, and allows consumers to get emergency room care at out-of-network hospitals, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.