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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. It represents the biggest change to the U.S. health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

The law’s main aim is to expand health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans. It accomplishes this in two main ways. First, all Americans will be required to have health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty. Health insurance exchanges are being set up in most states (the federal government does it for states that opt out) where consumers can shop for affordable private insurance plans. Second, to reach that magic number of 32 million new enrollees, the government aims to expand Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor. It will pay 90 percent of the costs for the expansion in the first three years. Afterward, it’s up to the state. However, the Supreme Court ruled on June 28, 2012 that states can refuse to participate in the expansion.

Many other tenants of the law are aimed at reducing health care costs and improving quality. This special section from the editorial team at DOTmed News will explore many of these changes and how they affect various stakeholders.

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