March 23, 2010: President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

  • Coverage required for children with pre-existing conditions and young adults under 26

  • Insurers prohibited from placing  lifetime limits on coverage and arbitrarily canceling coverage

  • Insurers must cover certain preventive health services for free, with no copays or deductibles, such as colonoscopy screening, Pap smears and mammograms, and flu shots

  • Small business tax credit kicks in

  • Temporary coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions


  • Prescription drug discounts for seniors

  • Free Medicare preventive services for seniors

  • The “80/20 Rule” requires insurers to use at least 80 cents out of every premium dollar to pay for medical claims, instead of overhead costs

  • Insurance companies must publicly justify any rate increase of 10 percent or more before raising premiums


  • Most health plans must cover additional preventive health services for women, such as breast cancer screenings

  • Consumers must be provided easy-to-understand summaries about a health plan’s benefits and coverage


  • Oct. 1: health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment


  • Jan. 1: Coverage purchased in the health insurance marketplace takes effect

  • March 31: Open enrollment on the health insurance marketplace ends

  • All Americans, with few exceptions, must have health insurance or face a penalty

  • Insurers can’t deny people with pre-existing health conditions

  • Consumers shopping on the marketplace can save on monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs with federal subsidies and tax credits

  • Nearly all plans, sold through the marketplaces and otherwise, must cover a basic set of health benefits, including emergency care, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, and pediatric dental and vision care

  • The Medicaid expansion takes effect (not in states including Maine that opted out)

  • Insurers can’t set yearly limits on what they spend on your coverage

  • Small business tax credit expands


  • Employers with at least 50 full-time workers must offer health insurance to their employees or face a penalty

You have lots of questions about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The Sun Journal and the Bangor Daily News want to help you understand what the ACA will mean for you and your family.

  • Glossary: The lingo you need to know.
  • Timeline: How health care coverage has evolved.
  • FAQs: Frequently asked questions and helpful answers

There is more information and coverage in our Affordable Care Act 101 special section

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