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The Affordable Care Act

U.S. Supreme Court finds the law constitutional

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, with most of its provisions scheduled to take full effect by Jan. 1, 2014. After numerous legal challenges, the U.S. Supreme Court found, in a 5-4 decision, that the majority of the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

See also: Justices uphold individual mandate in health care act.

AARP supported passage of the Affordable Care Act because the law contains numerous protections that benefit our members, their families and other Americans age 50 and over, for whom the lack of health insurance coverage — or affordable coverage — is a serious challenge.

By starting to close the coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole," 5.3 million people with Medicare Part D have saved $3.7 billion since the law was enacted. In the first five months of 2012, 745,000 people with Medicare saved a total of $485.3 million on prescription drugs in the doughnut hole for an average of $651 in savings per person this year. Over 32.5 million Americans in Medicare used one or more free preventive services in 2011. And, over 2.2 million people with traditional Medicare benefited from the new Annual Wellness Visit in 2011.
We are analyzing the entire decision, including the Medicaid portion of the Supreme Court’s decision, to understand what it means for affordable health care coverage moving forward.

Many parts of the Affordable Care Act are already in effect and in use. The Supreme Court decision ensures that the provisions will stay in force. AARP remains focused on helping our members and the public understand the many benefits in the law that are specifically designed to protect older people and their families. These include:

If you have a private or employer-based insurance plan:

  • As long as you pay your premiums, an insurance company can no longer drop your coverage if you become sick or disabled;

  • An insurance company can no longer place lifetime dollar limits on your health coverage;

  • Many private health insurance plans must now cover more preventive care services, such as mammograms and other screenings, at no additional cost to you.

If you are uninsured or have a preexisting condition:

  • The Affordable Care Act provides a way for many adults with preexisting medical conditions who have been denied coverage to purchase health insurance, and insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children up to age 19 who have preexisting conditions; 

  • The law enables young adults up to age 26 to be covered under a parent's health insurance plan, reducing the number of uninsured young adults and helping ease parental worries. In the past, young people were typically forced off their family's health plan upon turning 18 or 21, or graduating from college; 
  • Starting in 2014, insurers may no longer deny coverage to anyone with a preexisting health condition. Also in 2014, new health insurance "exchanges" will provide better insurance access and more options to self-employed people, small businesses and others who have been denied coverage or were unable to find affordable coverage.

If you have Medicare:

  • Annual wellness visits are provided at no additional cost to you, as are certain preventive care services, such as immunizations and screenings for cancer or diabetes. In 2011, more than 1 million people took advantage of Medicare's new annual wellness visit and more than 32.5 million Americans in traditional Medicare used one or more of the program's free preventive services;

  • People with Medicare Part D now receive discounts on prescription drugs while in the doughnut hole. (In 2011, this provision resulted in a savings of $2.1 billion or an average of $604 per person, on prescription drugs for 3.6 million people in Medicare.) The Part D discounts will gradually increase until 2020, when the doughnut hole will disappear;

  • The law provides new resources to fight waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare program and adds about 10 years to the solvency of Medicare.

See the AARP Health Law Guide tool to learn more about what the law means for you and your family, and how you can access the law’s benefits now and in the future.