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Supreme Court Ruling Sets Stage for Full Rollout of Health-Care Reform Law
Date:7/2/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Supreme Court's long-awaited ruling Thursday upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act means that changes to the American health care system will roll out largely as planned when the bill was signed into law two years ago, experts say.

"The opinion cleared the way for implementation to proceed," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the law will be the decrease in the number of people who are uninsured or underinsured. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimates that the rolls of the uninsured will go down by 30 million to 33 million people by 2016, leaving 26 million or 27 million people uninsured, a 50 percent reduction.

The increase in the number of people covered by health insurance comes via several different provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The most contested and controversial of those provisions is the so-called individual mandate, which requires all adults to obtain health insurance or face a penalty.

Surprising some legal scholars, the Supreme Court upheld this part of the law, as a tax, and it will now go into effect in 2014.

That means the earliest the U.S. Internal Revenue Service could levy fines would be in 2015, said Linda Fentiman, James D. Hopkins Professor at Pace University Law School in White Plains, N.Y.

But in truth, 90 percent or more of Americans won't ever feel the pinch of the penalty either because they're already covered or they're exempt, Pollitz said.

The Supreme Court decision also means that other provisions in the law -- the most significant legislative achievement of President Barack Obama's administration -- will be allowed to remain in place.

For instance, young adults can still be covered under their parents' insurance plans.

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