Affordable Care Act? Obamacare? Health Care Reform?

n a recent segment on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, the comedian sent a camera crew to the streets of Los Angeles to ask random people what they preferred: The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Most of the people expressed a strong preference for the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare, they said, concerned them. The Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, offered more freedoms and was, well, more affordable, as its name implied. There is one catch in their assessment, however. The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are one and the same.

While this late-night ribbing of the American public had the audience chuckling, it also personified two issues related to our country's recent health care reform.

One is that many people are confused or totally clueless when it comes to what it is, how it works and what it means to them. It's hardly surprising. Health care in general can be complicated. Government systems also can be complicated. Combine them, and it can get doubly difficult to understand. And, in today's media environment, we constantly hear contradictory information.

The other issue the segment illustrated is how politically polarizing the issue of health care reform has been. Most of the people polled on Jimmy Kimmel's show assumed the worst about "Obamacare," which was also not too surprising. After all, the term was coined by detractors of the president's health care reform plan, which is technically called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The nickname became so widely used, however, that now the president himself has adopted it in reference to the landmark legislation.

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This publication will not be weighing in on this partisan debate. Good or bad – the plan is now law, one that the Supreme Court upheld, one that is already in action and will be expanding. As such, regardless of how someone feels about it, this guide will help you navigate it. Our goal is to explain your rights under the law and help you understand its impact on you and your family.

Knowledge is power, as it is said, and there is no power greater than that which allows us to be better masters of our health. We hope this guide helps you in that goal.

AARP, American Public Health Association, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Consumer Reports, FAIR Health, Inc., HealthCare.gov, Internal Revenue Service, Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid.gov, Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Every effort was made to provide clear, accurate information about health care reform. We verified any information we had with first-tier sources – those who are involved in this change and its effect on our health care system. We also relied on well-respected national nonprofits, some who've done a masterful job of providing clear information to consumers. Our primary source of information was the Affordable Care Act's official website, HealthCare.gov. If you need additional information about how health care reform affects you, that would be your best place to start.

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