The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was enacted in March 2010, but its primary provisions go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The ACA is the most sweeping and widespread federal program in decades, equivalent to passage of the Social Security Act in 1933 and Medicare Act in 1964. During the past three years, three Cabinet-level federal agencies (Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury, which includes the Internal Revenue Service [IRS]) have been drafting regulations and guidelines governing implementation. The regulations are a work in progress, but the basics of what is required of employers now are known.
The ACA's three principal purposes are to expand access to affordable health care, thereby increasing the number of Americans with health insurance coverage by about 30 million; reduce the rate of health insurance premium increases that had more than doubled during the decade before the ACA's passage; and prohibit certain insurance practices that adversely affected individuals with health problems.