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Health care reform: Issues roundup

By Hannah Weinberger, Special to CNN
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the health care reform law this month.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the health care reform law this month.
  • The Supreme Court will rule on the Affordable Care Act this month
  • No matter the ruling, most Americans will be affected
  • For more on the Affordable Care Act, check back with

(CNN) -- While many changes to Americans' health care outlined in the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act don't take effect until 2014, a Supreme Court ruling expected this month could stop those changes from coming at all.

The act, often referred to as "Obamacare," is a step toward guaranteeing insurance coverage for all Americans and received enough support to pass in Congress in 2010. However, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on several of its core issues in March. The court may rule on the issues by the end of this month.

Basics: Health care reform issues

No matter the ruling, most Americans will be affected. Here are some of the issues being discussed right now:

Supporters of the health care legislation celebrate after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 ruling Thursday, June 28. Supporters of the health care legislation celebrate after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 ruling Thursday, June 28.
Health care and the high court
Photos: Health care and the high court Photos: Health care and the high court

Business owners

One hundred and sixty million Americans receive health care from their employers, many of whom set their own rates for their employees. If the court rules against the act, employees might face higher premiums, fewer network providers, higher-deductible plans and more stringent regulations on adding adult dependents.

What is Corporate America's Plan B to safeguard employees and industry if the act is struck down? Here are some insights:

Employers' 'plan B' if health reform is axed

Employers bear brunt of health insurance hikes

Small business owners

If you run your own company, the act has a lot of good in store for you -- that is, if you know how to access it. Many small business owners across the country who do offer health coverage haven't taken advantage of, or didn't even know about, a tax credit that helps offset giving employees insurance.

Why wouldn't small business owners take advantage of this? CNNMoney answers that question and talks about what might happen if only parts of the act are kept:

The health care tax credit few are taking

What's at stake for small businesses

National spending

Being insured helps safeguard against pricey medical bills. However, a report released Tuesday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suggests that the act won't limit national health spending. In fact, it predicts that spending will skyrocket after a brief recession-induced dip.

Growth in health spending doesn't necessarily correlate with growth in health care costs, but what does it mean? Here's a projection:

Health spending growth to stay low, then jump

America's youth

For today's young adults, health care comes last. If you can't afford to feed and clothe yourself, why budget for something that hasn't happened yet? However, youth get sick too, and their future bank accounts might take a toll if the act is repealed -- or if they don't insure themselves, period. Additionally, the ones who do insure themselves tend to forgo expenditures elsewhere (like graduate school) to make ends meet.

Young adults skip health care as medical debts rise

For 20-somethings, health care hangs in the balance

Senior citizens

Health reform has been the belle of the senior citizen community, saving Medicare beneficiaries a collective $3.7 billion dollars on their medication costs since its inception in 2010. One of the reform's aims is to close the "donut hole," or portion of senior citizens that can't pay for medication out of pocket, by 2020.

Read how Medicare has been affected by health care reform:

Medicare: Seniors saved $3.7 billion on medicine

Doctors at risk

Increases in insurance coverage and changes in Medicare help patients avoid footing hefty medical bills, but sometimes their doctors pay the price.

Read why some doctors, especially those in private practice, are running out of money:

Doctors going broke

Doctors: We could go out of business

Silver linings

Just because a negative ruling would give health insurers and states the ability to opt out of reform-era options doesn't mean they're going to. UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest health insurer, said that while it will take cues from competitors, it will maintain some of the act's key mandates regardless of the court's decision. Moreover, there is strong bipartisan support for state-created health care exchange programs, many of which have been set into motion, where those seeking insurance can look for subsidized coverage.

UnitedHealthcare to keep some health care mandates

Exchanges could survive even if health reform law dies

The fine print

Very few people take the time to read bills in their entirety, but should we? CNN investigates lesser-known changes to the health care system tucked into "Obamacare."

Check out these tidbits:

10 lesser-known effects of health care reform law

Part of complete coverage on
The Affordable Care Act
July 5, 2012 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
In its ruling last week on the national health care law, the Supreme Court found that penalties the law places on people who don't buy health insurance count as a tax protected by the Constitution.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 2003 GMT (0403 HKT)
The Supreme Court's decision Thursday to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that the predictions about how it will affect Americans remain in place.
June 29, 2012 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
With his opinion for a narrow majority of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has, for the first time since his confirmation as chief justice in 2005, breached the gap between the conservative and liberal wings of the court on a polarizing political issue.
June 29, 2012 -- Updated 0123 GMT (0923 HKT)
In a landmark ruling that will impact the November election and the lives of every American, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the controversial health care law championed by President Barack Obama.
Here's a breakdown of the votes an what the Supreme Court justices wrote about the health care ruling.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
The court's opinion, in preserving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, under Congress' taxing power, still gives a virtually unlimited sway to the power of the federal government, Stephen Presser writes.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Chief Justice Roberts, in a move that likely surprised many, joined the four more liberal justices in declaring that the mandate could survive, but as a tax.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
What exactly did the Supreme Court decide? Here's the nuts and bolts of their ruling.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
At stake in the court's ruling is the well-being of millions of Americans living with chronic diseases such as cancer.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the health care reform Thursday. What the justices decide will have an immediate and long-term impact on all Americans.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 2102 GMT (0502 HKT)
The Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Thursday. The landmark decision will dictate the way health care is administered to millions of Americans.
June 17, 2012 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
A look at key moments in the law's history from the start.
June 28, 2012 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
A look at the four issues the high court tackled separately during oral arguments in late March. Those issues are expected to play key roles in the judges' final decisions.