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Health care reform: An overview

President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

On March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. A week later, the bill was modified by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act Of 2010. It is the most sweeping, expansive social reform legislation enacted in decades.

"The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see," said President Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, where he was flanked by lawmakers marking the historic occasion.

The comprehensive overhaul will put in place changes that will affect the U.S. health care system for years to come. Under the plan, 95 percent of Americans are projected to be insured. It sets up a new, competitive health insurance market and is intended to put American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. It provides the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history and the White House says it puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade.

But the overhaul has its critics. Some question the government's involvement in health care and the heavy costs of reform. Others have criticized moves made as a result of the overhaul, such as insurers' dropping child-only policies. And several states have gone to court to block reform of the health system, saying that the law's requirement that almost everyone buy health insurance violates the Constitution. The lawsuit is expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

Some of the changes to our nation's health system have already been set in motion. Among them, individual policies and group health plans in effect by March 23rd were "grandfathered" (i.e. not subject to many of the new reforms) and small employers became eligible for 2009 and 2010 tax credits. But many important reforms will be rolled out in the following years.

Follow Marketplace's coverage of health care reform as the changes are made.

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