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Obamacare: the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Learn how the ACA improved coverage and made it more affordable through income-based subsidies. Find ACA-compliant plans now, during open enrollment.

What is Obamacare?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)  – also known as Obamacare – is a sweeping piece of legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The law was intended to improve the affordability and quality of health insurance in the United States. The ACA includes numerous provisions intended to make coverage affordable for and accessible to millions of Americans who struggled to pay for individual coverage – many of whom could not buy individual coverage at any price due to pre-existing medical conditions.

The law sharply reduced the number of uninsured Americans and enrollment in marketplace plans reached an all-time high in 2022, along with Medicaid/CHIP enrollment.

How the ACA makes coverage more affordable

The Affordable Care Act included major provisions designed to make comprehensive health coverage affordable to Americans who struggled to pay for coverage prior to the ACA.

How do premium subsidies help many ACA plan buyers?

As of early 2022, nearly 13 million Americans were receiving Obamacare’s premium subsidies. And the subsidies have been made larger and more widely available than they used to be, thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act. (These provisions are in effect through at least 2025.)

The premium subsidies – which are actually tax credits – offset the cost of premiums for any metal-level ACA-compliant health plan available through an ACA marketplace.

Subsidy eligibility is largely based on income, but there are a handful of other factors, including immigration status, age, and access to government-sponsored or employer-sponsored coverage. Here’s a full explanation of premium subsidy eligibility.

Use our 2023 subsidy calculator to see how much you could save on marketplace premiums.

Americans not eligible for premium subsidies include individuals whose employer offers comprehensive “affordable” coverage, those who are eligible for Medicaid, premium-free Medicare Part A, or another government program, and individuals who are incarcerated or not legally present in the U.S.

How do ACA’s cost-sharing reductions further reduce coverage costs?

In addition to the premium subsidies, the ACA also provides cost-sharing reductions (CSR) – also known as cost-sharing subsidies – which reduce out-of-pocket spending for eligible enrollees who select Silver plans in the marketplace/exchange.

By the end of the open enrollment period for 2022 coverage, more than half the people enrolled through (the exchange that’s used in 33 states) were receiving CSR.

Obamacare’s Medicaid eligibility expansion

Millions of Americans have been able to enroll in Medicaid since 2014 through the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility. The Supreme Court made the expansion optional for states, but as of early 2022, 38 states and the District of Columbia had accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid – providing coverage for 21 million Americans. And South Dakota will expand Medicaid in mid-2023, as a result of a ballot measure passed by voters in 2022.

How does ACA’s Medical Loss Ratio (‘80/20 Rule’) help consumers?

Obamacare established the Medical Loss Ratio – the 80/20 Rule – which forced health insurance companies to devote more premium dollars to medical care for policyholders, as opposed to administrative costs. When insurers don’t meet these requirements, they have to issue refunds to policyholders. In 2021, more than $2 billion in rebate checks were sent to American consumers.

The ACA also requires Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 85% of revenue on medical costs and quality improvements, although rebates in the case of non-compliance are issued to the federal government instead of enrollees.

An alternative to COBRA

The Affordable Care Act added a new alternative to COBRA. COBRA gives employees the option of continuing their group coverage after leaving a job or otherwise losing access to their employer-sponsored coverage. (State continuation provides this option in many states for people who work for smaller employers.)

Since the mid-1980s, COBRA provided a realistic way for people to maintain coverage while between jobs if they had pre-existing conditions and were unable to qualify for medically underwritten individual health coverage. COBRA allowed these individuals to keep the same coverage they had at their job, but the coverage was expensive, since the employee assumed the full price of the plan – including the portion the employer had been paying.

Obamacare’s guaranteed issue provision assured coverage eligibility for these individuals – and also ensured that their new individual-market coverage is as comprehensive as group coverage (for example, the inclusion of maternity coverage – which wasn’t part of most individual market plans prior to 2014). For most enrollees, coverage under the ACA is also affordable, thanks to premium subsidies. And – depending on income levels after leaving a job – some of these individuals now qualify for expanded Medicaid with free or very low-cost premiums.

As a result, the law freed Americans from “job lock” allowing them to pursue self-employment and entrepreneurship, confident that they have access to comprehensive, affordable coverage on the individual market.

Review of proposed health insurance rate increases

Before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, some states tried to ensure that premiums on state-regulated health plans were actuarially justified, but others did very little – and residents in some states were getting fleeced by some insurers.

Obamacare implemented a system that requires an actuarial review of any proposed rate increase of 10% or more (this threshold has since increased to 15%), and details are published so consumers can see them.

Most states handle the rate review process themselves, but as of the 2023 plan year, the federal government conducts the rate review process in Oklahoma and Wyoming. (Texas was on this list until 2022, when their new rate review program took effect.)

Health plans must cap out-of-pocket costs

Under Obamacare, health plans have to cap enrollees’ out-of-pocket exposure for in-network care at a level that’s set each year by the federal government. (Plans can have out-of-pocket caps that are lower than the federally determined amount, but not higher.) For 2023, the cap is $9,100 for a single person, and $18,200 for a family. Prior to the ACA, individual-market plans sometimes had out-of-pocket limits of $20,000 or more, or no limits at all.

Did the ACA help small businesses with employee coverage?

Under Obamacare, small businesses that provide employees with health insurance may be eligible for an ACA-created tax credit to make offering coverage more affordable.

Would ACA subsidies lower your health insurance premiums?

Use our 2023 subsidy calculator to see if you’re eligible for ACA premium subsidies – and your potential savings if you qualify.

Obamacare subsidy calculator *




Add ages of other family members to be insured.


Include yourself, your spouse, and children claimed as dependents on your taxes.


Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)

For most taxpayers, your MAGI is close to AGI (Line 11 of your Form 1040 in 2021 and 2022).

* This tool provides ACA premium subsidy estimates based on your household income. does not collect or store any personal information from individuals using our subsidy calculator.

Estimated annual subsidy

Provide information above to get an estimate.

How and when to enroll in ACA-compliant coverage

How can I buy health insurance during open enrollment?

Although coverage under Obamacare is now guaranteed issue, there’s a trade-off: enrollment in ACA-compliant individual market plans is limited to an annual open enrollment period (November 1 to January 15 in most states).

Individuals who want to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan (including a CO-OP in areas where they’re still available) have the choice of enrolling through a state health insurance marketplace or off-exchange (outside of the marketplace), although premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions are not available outside the exchange. Learn how plan design and pricing may differ off-exchange.

Can I buy coverage outside of ACA open enrollment?

Outside of the annual OEP, individuals who have qualifying life events can enroll during a special enrollment period. These qualifying events include:

  • Involuntary loss of coverage
  • A permanent move to a new area
  • Divorce, death or legal separation (available in some states)
  • A change in subsidy eligibility
  • A change in immigration status – including becoming a U.S. citizen or lawfully present resident
  • Problems with your employer-sponsored health plan’s affordability or its benefits.
  • Non-calendar-year health plan renewal
  • A change in household income that makes you subsidy-eligible
  • A growing family – due to marriage, birth, adoption or foster care
  • Various exceptional circumstances; these can apply to a single applicant or to everyone in a particular area or circumstance.

In most cases, the applicant must have had minimum essential coverage in place prior to the qualifying event in order to be eligible for a special enrollment period, so some qualifying events only allow for coverage changes (as opposed to gaining coverage after being uninsured).

Read more about each of these qualifying events and special enrollment periods.

Who’s eligible to enroll in ACA-compliant coverage?

The intent of the Affordable Care Act was to cover as many Americans as possible with comprehensive, major medical health insurance plans. To be eligible to enroll in a plan through the ACA’s health insurance exchanges, you must be lawfully present in the U.S. and you can not be currently incarcerated.

Immigrants can enroll in individual health plans during the open enrollment period, just like any other lawfully present U.S. resident – and lawfully present immigrants are eligible for ACA’s premium subsidies.

Do I have to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan?

The ACA’s individual mandate penalty was eliminated after the end of 2018 – meaning that a federal penalty no longer applies to people who are uninsured in 2019 and later. However, some states have implemented their own individual coverage mandates.

For the most part, coverage needs to be ACA-compliant in order to meet the requirements of an individual mandate, but if you still have a grandmothered or grandfathered health plans (neither of which are required to be fully compliant with the ACA), you can keep your plan for as long as it continues to be available.

It’s in your best interest, however, to actively compare your plan options in the exchange each year – including subsidy eligibility – to see if you can get a better value by switching to a new plan.

How Obamacare makes it easier to select health coverage

What are health marketplaces and how do they help consumers shop for coverage?

Health insurance marketplaces – also referred to as health insurance exchanges – were established to help American consumers easily compare coverage details and costs across a wide range of qualified health plans. These policies, which are all ACA-compliant, must meet standards established and enforced by the federal government and state governments.

The ACA called for the creation of an exchange – or marketplace – in each state, but marketplace implementation (including the type of marketplace) varies by state.

See what kind of exchange your state utilizes for enrollment.

As of 2023, there are 18 state-based exchanges, three federally supported exchanges, six state-partnership exchanges, and 24 federally facilitated exchanges.

A key goal of the marketplaces was to provide coverage explanations in easy-to-understand, standardized formats, along with uniform definitions of health insurance terminology. Plans are categorized under metal level classifications based on their actuarial value, and catastrophic plans are also available to eligible enrollees.

How does Obamacare help small businesses provide coverage for their employees?

Included in the exchange options is an enrollment platform called SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) – a tool that allows small businesses to compare plans and enroll in coverage for their employees. SHOP plans proved to be much less popular than individual market plans, and most states no longer have SHOP plans available. In some states, however, there are still thriving SHOP markets.

What are the ACA’s CO-OPs (Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans)?

The ACA also created nonprofit health insurance co-ops – private, nonprofit, state-licensed health insurance carriers – that offer ACA-compliant plans in individual and small-business markets. But only three CO-OPs are still operational in five states.

What is ACA’s Basic Health Program and which states use it?

Two states – New York and Minnesota – offer the ACA’s Basic Health Program option for people with incomes too high for Medicaid eligibility and for legal immigrants not eligible for Medicaid because of the five-year waiting period. Kentucky plans to implement a BHP for coverage effective in 2024, and Oregon is also considering a BHP.

How the ACA changed coverage standards and improved benefits

How does the ACA help consumers with pre-existing conditions?

Obamacare put coverage standards in place to prevent insurers from discriminating against applicants – or charging them higher plan premiums – based on an individual’s pre-existing medical conditions or gender. Before the implementation of the ACA, Americans with pre-existing conditions could find it expensive – or impossible – to buy health coverage in the individual market.

The law also eliminated waiting periods that employer-sponsored plans would impose before starting coverage of pre-existing conditions, and allows employers to impose waiting periods of no more than three months before full-time employees must be offered health coverage.

Under the ACA, all policies are guaranteed issue – which means that health coverage is guaranteed to be issued to applicants regardless of their health status, age or income. Prior to 2014, coverage on the individual market in most states was not guaranteed issue. Instead, insurers based eligibility for coverage on an applicant’s medical history.

Did the Affordable Care Act improve employer-sponsored coverage?

Obamacare also mandated minimum value standards for employer-sponsored plans offered by large employers. (In most states, that means 50+ employees.) Large employers are required to offer affordable coverage that provides minimum value, which means it can’t be a “mini-med” or type of plan with gaping holes in the coverage. Employers that don’t comply face potential penalties under the employer mandate.

Learn about a special enrollment period if your employer-sponsored plan doesn’t measure up.

What are the ACA’s essential health benefits (EHBs)?

ACA-compliant plans come with a long list of benefits – embodied in Obamacare’s essential health benefits (EHB). Under the Affordable Care Act, all individual and small-group major medical plans must include coverage of the following EHBs:

  1. hospitalization
  2. ambulatory services
  3. emergency services
  4. maternity and newborn care
  5. services for those suffering from mental health disorders and problems with substance abuse
  6. prescription drugs (including brand-name drugs and specialty drugs)
  7. lab tests
  8. chronic disease management, “well” services and preventive services, including vaccinations (certain preventive services are covered at no cost to the enrollee)
  9. pediatric dental and vision care for children
  10. rehabilitative and “habilitative” services which include helping a person keep, learn or improve functioning for daily living.

Which preventive health services are covered FREE under the ACA?

While that list alone may seem impressive, it’s even more impressive when you look at the long list of preventive healthcare services that are covered FREE under ACA-compliant plans:

  • FREE colonoscopies
  • FREE route cholesterol and blood pressure checks
  • FREE birth control
  • FREE routine vaccinations
  • FREE breastfeeding supplies
  • FREE screening for gestational diabetes
  • FREE pap smears and HPV tests
  • FREE screenings for HIV, Gonorrhea, and Hepatitis
  • FREE tobacco cessation
  • FREE Rh incompatibility screening for pregnant women

(Note that while routine screening tests are free, regular cost-sharing applies if the test is diagnostic or performed more frequently than the routine screening guidelines recommend.)

Although large-group plans are not required to cover the ACA’s essential health benefits, the requirement that health plans fully cover a wide range of preventive care does apply to large group plans as well as small group plans and individual-market plans (including student health plans, which are regulated under individual market rules).

And for any essential health benefit that is covered under a large group plan (which includes most of the benefits on most plans), there cannot be any annual or lifetime benefit caps.

Coverage on your plan for adult children

Improved plans for college students

Thanks to Obamacare, health plans offered to college students are just as comprehensive as the ACA-compliant plans offered to everyone else.

Consumer protections and anti-discrimination measures

How does Obamacare prohibit discrimination in health coverage?

Section 1557 prohibits discrimination in health plans – including discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. That has been a boon to the LGBT community.

The Trump administration rolled back those consumer protections with a new rule that was issued in 2020. But the Biden administration announced in May 2021 that Section 1557 requirements would once again include a prohibition on discrimination by health care entities based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And in 2022, HHS proposed new rules to strengthen and improve nondiscrimination in healthcare.

A level playing field for women

Because Obamacare prohibits discrimination because of a pre-existing or newly diagnosed condition, it also means women can’t be denied coverage if they’re pregnant or be forced to pay a higher premium just because they’re women (health plans in the individual market used to routinely reject applications from expectant parents — both male and female — before the ACA’s reforms were implemented).

Another major improvement under Obamacare is birth control access – with plans required to fully cover (ie, with no cost-sharing) at least one version of every FDA-approved method of birth control for women.

Ease of claim appeals

Under Obamacare, there’s an internal appeals process, and if that doesn’t work,  consumers have the right to an external review by an independent organization.

Protection from rescission

Under the ACA, rescission (retroactive cancellation of your coverage) by a health insurance company is prohibited – unless your application was fraudulent or included intentional misrepresentation.

How the ACA affects Medicare coverage

The law includes numerous provisions designed to reduce Medicare spending, drive down costs, and improve coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Among them:

Cost savings through Medicare Advantage

The ACA is gradually cutting Medicare costs by restructuring payments to Medicare Advantage, based on the fact that the government was spending more money per enrollee for Medicare Advantage than for Original Medicare. (Medicare Advantage enrollment has continued to increase; Obamacare has not dampened that market at all.)

Focus on prescription drugs

Medicare’s prescription drug “donut hole” issue was addressed by the ACA, which began phasing in coverage adjustments to ensure that enrollees would pay only 25% of “donut hole” expenses by 2020, compared to 100% in 2010 and before.

The ‘donut hole’ closed a year earlier than expected for brand-name drugs, with enrollees’ out-of-pocket costs in 2019 capped at 25% of the cost of the drugs (after the deductible is met). By 2020, enrollees’ out-of-pocket costs were capped at 25% of the cost of both brand name and generic drugs while in the donut hole, and it will remain at that level going forward.

(It’s important to note that the donut hole does still have an impact on most enrollees’ spending. That’s because most plans have non-standard designs before the donut hole, with copays instead of a 25% coinsurance. So most enrollees will find that their costs at the pharmacy do still change when they reach the lower boundary of the donut hole.)

In addition to the ACA’s changes, the Inflation Reduction Act makes dramatic improvements to Medicare Part D benefits, which phase in starting in 2023.

Free preventive services

Since 2011, Medicare beneficiaries have had access to free preventive care, with free “Welcome to Medicare” visits, annual wellness visits, personalized prevention plans, and some screenings, including mammograms – all thanks to the ACA.

New funding for Medicare

The ACA changed the tax code to increase revenue for the Medicare program. Starting in 2013, the Medicare payroll tax increased by 0.9% for the wealthiest fraction of the country – less than 3% of couples earn $250,000 or more.

Expanding access to care in underserved areas

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 included a provision to pay 10% bonuses to Medicare physicians who work in health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). The ACA expanded this program to include general surgeons, from 2011 to the end of 2015.

Cost containment

The ACA includes numerous cost-containment provisions that have been implemented over the years since the law was passed.

An additional opportunity to disenroll from Medicare Advantage and sign up for Part D

ACA Section 3204 created an annual Medicare Advantage disenrollment period from January 1 to February 14. The Medicare Advantage disenrollment period allowed seniors drop their Medicare Advantage plan, switch back to Original Medicare, and purchase a Part D plan. As of 2019, it was replaced with the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which is a longer window (January 1 to March 31) and allows more flexibility for enrollees, as they now also have the option to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during this window.

Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.

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Louise Norris
1 year ago

Diane, it seems like you might have been told some untruths. My area of expertise is health insurance, so I’ll focus on that. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provides premium assistance to millions of hard-working middle-class Americans. And the American Rescue Plan, enacted earlier this year, has made coverage even more affordable in a variety of ways:

For 2021 and 2022, the American Rescue Plan has eliminated the income cap on premium subsidy eligibility. So people who have to buy their own health insurance (the self-employed, for example) can qualify for a premium subsidy even with a fairly high income. Subsidies are available in that case if the second-lowest-cost Silver plan would be more than 8.5% of their household income without a subsidy.

Before the Affordable Care Act, people had to pay full price for self-purchased health insurance. This included people who were self-employed as well as people who work for small businesses that didn’t provide health insurance (many small businesses simply can’t afford to offer coverage to their workers, and can only point them towards self-purchased plans). And the other big drawback was that self-purchased health coverage was medically underwritten in nearly every state. That meant that people with significant pre-existing medical conditions simply couldn’t get coverage if they had to buy it themselves (as opposed to getting it from an employer or a government program like Medicare). This prevented people from pursuing entrepreneurship, as they had to continue to work somewhere where health insurance was provided.

Thanks to the ACA, these folks now have an option to start their own businesses, since they can obtain self-purchased health insurance regardless of their medical history (just like people who get their coverage from an employer). And the subsidies go a long way towards leveling the playing field for people who are self-employed as well. Prior to the ACA, they paid full price for their coverage, while people who got employer-sponsored health insurance had the majority of the premiums subsidized by the employer. Now that we have the ACA, self-employed people also get a break on their premiums, just like people who get coverage from an employer.

I’ve been in the individual/family health insurance industry since 2003, so I saw it in the pre-ACA days. I remember how heartbreaking it was to have to tell people that there were no coverage options for them due to their medical history. That doesn’t happen anymore, thanks to the ACA.

Diana Firebaugh
Diana Firebaugh
1 year ago
Reply to  Louise Norris

I have heard many people say that ACA isn’t what Obama said, but other than all that Ins stuff….the truth be known…we do not need nor want the govt in our business like that, the govt is invading our personal lives too much, and besides, what was with this “you buy my health Ins or be fined”!! And do not tell me that is not true because I know of 3 people, including myself that got fined! I couldn’t afford the damn shit, didn’t want it, I was healthy and never went to the doctor so it would have been a waste of money, so my punishment for not being able to afford it was to be fined….that makes a lot of sense….govt overreach, just like Biden having the IRS looking into everybody’s finances! The administrations are getting too bold and invasive, we are already monitored through our phones and laptop, not to mention cameras/face recognition… they want to monitor our spending, our driving, and our healthcare and coming from people that believe in abortion up to the time of birth, I don’t think they should be in charge of healthcare, do you? you are either brainwashed or are paid to sugar coat this crap, either way, you are a scary person….Diane had every right to say what she said because she was right, then there are people like you that make awful things look good and how misinformed we are….I have read all the paperwork, and hidden deep inside is a mandate of some sort for everyone to be chipped…..don’t EVEN try and tell me I misread something or it doesn’t exist because it does….just like all the bills the democrats want passed are always hiding something sketchy…..have to pass it so we can read it and see what’s in there…yea, right, Pelosi! She is the sketchiest one of all…..they just love spending the money WE made on things we don’t want…they don’t even ask anymore, this govt needs to be taken down a notch, they forgot they work for us not the other way around

Louise Norris
1 year ago

Here is the full text of the ACA:

If you open it up and use ctrl+f to search for “chip” you will find 90 times that word appears in the text. Every single one of them refers to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Here’s what that is: It has nothing to do with putting chips in people.

I’m not sure how you’ve come to believe that particular lie about the ACA. But it’s pretty easy to see that it’s false if you read the ACA itself.

2 months ago

Bullcrap. Up until ACA I had healthcare. Since ACA I have been unable to afford it. As the wife’s employer dumped theor spouse and family coverages. I was self employed. The coverage of services for my wife was greatly reduced. Office copays went up and so did the deductable. And we now pay fees and taxes to both State and Federal though income, sales, and property taxes. To pay for healthcare programs we don’t qualify to benefot from. How does this help us? We live on a middleclass income under $60k but over maximum limits to qualify for assistance. Perhaps you may know something more?

Louise Norris
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, I don’t know your age, location, or how many people are in your family. But with more than two people on the policy and with you being old enough to have purchased coverage pre-ACA, there are virtually no areas of the country where you wouldn’t qualify for premium subsidies with a household income under $60,000.
The American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act have eliminated (through 2025) the income cap to qualify for subsidies. And the “family glitch” has been fixed, so subsidies are now available to some families that previously couldn’t get them due to an offer of coverage from an employer (sounds like that’s not an issue for your family, if your wife’s employer no longer offers family coverage).
I would strongly advise you to use our subsidy calculator to see if your household might be eligible for subsidies. You almost certainly are: (If you’re in a state that runs its own exchange, you can use this KFF subsidy calculator instead: )

Virginia Lou Meng
Virginia Lou Meng
1 year ago

My sister has the Oscar plan and was recently told she is not covered at the sioux city cancer center for a pet scan. But initially was covered there. Can they drop her for no reason. They said they can and they do not have to inform her if they do. She has cancer and needs this scan.

Last edited 1 year ago by Virginia Lou Meng
Louise Norris
1 year ago

Unfortunately, mid-year changes to provider networks can happen. Has she called Oscar to confirm that the cancer center is no longer in-network? If so, given that she’s mid-way through treatment for cancer, she may be able to request a temporary exception from Oscar (so that they would provide coverage as if the cancer center were still in-network) until she’s able to transition to a new provider.

Shelly G.
Shelly G.
1 year ago

Untruths? below? this is a complete joke. no-one can afford over $600/mo. The others avail are deductible for people who go to the doctor several times a month. Normal families do not do this, my money is literally thrown out the window to a deductible that will NEVER be hit. I am literally better off un-insured than going broke every month and hope for the best rather than with no money left over for groceries for insurance that can’t even help my family. The deductibles are the most corrupt idea imaginable. How people put up with this, I have no idea. The deductibles are absolutely useless. We have other obligations such as car payments and my insurance is supposed to cost more? it’s more than I pay for my half of mortgage on a home. This is only helpful for already poor poverty-stricken folks, the middle class is meant to fall, obviously. The editor is trying to carry on about everyone but families.

Last edited 1 year ago by Shelly G.
Louise Norris
1 year ago
Reply to  Shelly G.


I’m curious whether you’ve shopped for health insurance since the American Rescue Plan was implemented? That legislation eliminated the “subsidy cliff” for this year and next year (and that might be made permanent under the legislation Congress is currently debating), which means there is no longer an income cap for subsidy eligibility:

Among the people who enrolled through during the six-month COVID-related special enrollment period this year, nearly half got coverage that costs less than $10/month: And the median deductible for those enrollees is just $50, thanks to cost-sharing reductions.

If you shopped in previous years and found that you weren’t eligible for subsidies (and that the cost of coverage was going to be more than 8.5% of your income), I really recommend that you shop again this fall, during the open enrollment window that starts November 1. The subsidies are larger than they used to be, and available to people with incomes above the limit that used to be in place. I hope you’re able to find coverage that fits your needs. Going without health insurance is a really risky idea.

Diana Firebaugh
Diana Firebaugh
1 year ago
Reply to  Louise Norris

Ive got Medicare and Medicaid (Humana), doesn’t cost me anything, I get free dental, eyecare and hearing. Like I said, nobody really asked for his plan or wants it for that matter, there are other less expensive ways to go….BUT the simple fact he was trying to force it on us, like this vaccine mandate, not a good idea, especially when we watch other actions of these people proving once again there are not doing things for our betterment, Obama had a good start at tearing this country down, Biden is following that plan, hell, Obama’s probably calling the shots anyway, I think he is

Louise Norris
1 year ago

If you’re eligible for Medicare, you’re not in the population that the ACA was created to cover. One of the primary purposes of the ACA was to provide coverage for people who DIDN’T have access to Medicare, employer-sponsored insurance, or traditional Medicaid.

Before the ACA, the vast majority of Americans already had either employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid/CHIP. But there were significant barriers to coverage for people who weren’t eligible for one of those. People who were self-employed, for example, had to buy their own health insurance and could be rejected due to their medical history. That’s the sort of problem that the ACA was created to address.

So again, if you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’re not in the group that needed this law. Medicare’s eligibility standards did not change under the ACA (although some things were improved, such as additional preventive care and the closing of the Part D donut hole).

With that said, the ACA is a wide-ranging law that affects numerous aspects of health care in the US. Here’s a summary of the various consumer protections it created:

2 months ago
Reply to  Louise Norris

I was self employed. Received coverage through wifes coverage. ACA wiped me completely out of having healthcare. Wife’s employer. A healthcare provider company. They dropped spouse and family coverage the following year. Didn’t help this self employed individual.

Louise Norris
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, if you’re self-employed and don’t have an offer of affordable employer-sponsored coverage, you will likely qualify for financial assistance to buy a plan through the exchange in your state. You can browse plans on Or if you want to reply with some basic info (zip code, ages of family members who need coverage, how many people are listed on your tax return, whether you use tobacco, and household income), I’d be happy to run some quotes for you and let you know whether you’d qualify for subsidies. Almost nine out of ten applicants do qualify for subsidies, and for most people, the subsidies cover the majority of the cost of the coverage.

11 months ago

If I am person where I am considered working for myself independent contractor and I end up having to pay taxes up end of the year working for this company and I get the free Obama Care because love this and I have two children under 18 now if I get a part-time job that I have to pay taxes during that course of a year do I lose my free Obamacare because of that part-time job it and come but it’s only 20 hours a week at 15 hours an hour and that would be my considered income and that puts me under the limit for the Obamacare which is free because it doesn’t matter right me if I’m an independent contractor I was told I would lose my insurance if I got the background job for the free Obamacare as is correct?

Louise Norris
11 months ago
Reply to  Luanne

If I understand your question correctly, you’re asking if the additional income from a part-time job would make you lose some or all of the subsidy you’re currently receiving in the marketplace? The answer is that it will depend on how much you earn in total. You can use our subsidy calculator to see how much your subsidy will be at different income levels:

The subsidies are based on income, and they do get smaller as your income gets larger. So if you earn an additional $15,000 from the part-time job, it would certainly have an effect on your subsidy amount. But your total subsidy is going to depend on your total income, including the amount you earn from the part-time job and the amount you earn as an independent contractor. Depending on the total, you might find that you no longer qualify for free coverage in the marketplace, but you will almost certainly still qualify for a subsidy that will cover part of your premiums.

7 months ago

I am looking at the subject – Employee Mandate – and hope someone can shade some light on how/where to fight against this situation.
My wife worked for a Bank and retired after 32 years of service. She was on her company sponsored medical insurance before marriage but I had my employer covered her after marriage. When she turned 65 she didn’t sign on to Medicare Part B as I was still working and had her covered under my medical coverage plan. That help saving her bank a lot of money.

I then retired in 2020 and both of us were mandated to sign on to Medicare Part B. Then comes the Medicare Premium issues that have to be paid and it was new to me. My company would pay my monthly premium but not hers. I went to her bank and asked for paying/reimbursing her premiums and they refused while other of their retirees got theirs. The reasons they gave was that there was a policy change when employees didn’t sign up for their company medical insurance and also not signing up for Medicare when turned 65 would forfeit her subsidized Medicare premium. I explained that she was exempted to have Medicare coverage after turning 65 because I was still working and they refused to budged. Does anyone know how to fight this? Thanks

Louise Norris
7 months ago

To clarify, it sounds like you’re not being asked to pay any late enrollment penalties for Part B, correct? (if so, that would likely be an error, since she had active employee coverage — as a spouse, in her case — during the time she waived Part B).

Is her former employer using an ICHRA to reimburse retirees for Medicare premiums? (here’s more about ICHRAs: ) If so, she may be able to sign up for it during the employer’s annual open enrollment period (she may also have qualified for a special enrollment period when your employer-sponsored plan ended, but the special enrollment period likely would have ended long ago, given that you retired in 2020).

But most employers do not reimburse retirees for Medicare premiums, so it’s much more common for retirees to have to pay those costs out of pocket.

Desiree Bennett
Desiree Bennett
3 months ago

okay I’m young an trying to figure all this out. My question is if you don’t have insurance at all can you apply for Obamacare? I work an i bring in about 2,200 2,400 a month at my job. an if I can’t apply for Obamacare where do i need to go to get cheap but good health coverage?

Louise Norris
3 months ago

Yes, you can apply for a plan through the exchange/marketplace in your state. Start at and if your state runs its own exchange, it will direct you there once you put in your zip code.
Open enrollment for individual/family health coverage starts November 1. You’ll be able to apply at that point, for coverage effective January 1. Here’s our guide to open enrollment:
If your employer doesn’t offer health coverage, you may be eligible for significant subsidies to offset the cost of coverage purchased through the exchange. The application will walk you through all of that. But it’s also useful to have a broker or navigator who can help you figure it all out. You can use the “find local help” tool to find enrollment assistance in your area:

Lisa Chew
Lisa Chew
1 month ago

Since your website seems to be the most helpful place to find ACA info, I’m hoping you can help me. 
We live in South Carolina and are leaving COBRA coverage in January to sign up for Marketplace coverage with a subsidy. 
I am concerned because none of the SC options cover treatment out of state unless it’s an emergency. I have made many attempts to get clarification as to what constitutes an emergency. The most concrete answer I could get from someone at BCBC is the “risk of loss of life or limb”. My concern is that I can’t diagnose myself. For example, if I have chest pain and go to the ER out of state and it turns out to be something short of life threatening will I have to pay the entire bill? 
Is there anything in the ACA that clarifies what those of us who don’t have out of state coverage need to know? Is there any coverage you can purchase for coverage out of state but in the country? 
Please help! Thanks! 

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