Love it or hate it, here it is:
Okay, explained like you're a five year-old (well, okay, maybe a bit older), without too much oversimplification, and (hopefully) without sounding too biased:
What people call "Obamacare" is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (abbreviated to PPACA or ACA). However, people were calling it "Obamacare" before everyone even hammered out what it would be. It's a term that was, at first, mostly used by people who didn't like the PPACA, and it's become popularized in part because PPACA is a really long and awkward name, even when you turn it into an acronym like that. Barack Obama has since said that he actually likes the term "Obamacare" because, he says, "I do care".
Anyway, the PPACA made a bunch of new rules regarding health care, with the purpose of making health care more affordable for everyone. Opponents of the PPACA, on the other hand, feel that the rules it makes take away too many freedoms and force people (both individuals and businesses) to do things they shouldn't have to.
So what does it do? Well, here is everything, in the order of when it goes into effect (because some of it happens later than other parts of it):
(Note: Page numbers listed in citations are the page numbers within the PDF, not the page numbers of the document itself)
Already in effect:
It allows the Food and Drug Administration to approve more generic drugs (making for more competition in the market to drive down prices) ( Citation: An entire section of the bill, called Title VII, is devoted to this, starting on page 766 )
It increases the rebates on drugs people get through Medicare (so drugs cost less) ( Citation: Page 235, sec. 2501 )
It establishes a non-profit group, that the government doesn't directly control, PCORI, to study different kinds of treatments to see what works better and is the best use of money. ( Citation: Page 684, sec. 1181 )
It makes chain restaurants like McDonalds display how many calories are in all of their foods, so people can have an easier time making choices to eat healthy. ( Citation: Page 518, sec. 4205 )
It makes a "high-risk pool" for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically, this is a way to slowly ease into getting rid of "pre-existing conditions" altogether. For now, people who already have health issues that would be considered "pre-existing conditions" can still get insurance, but at different rates than people without them. ( Citation: Page 49, sec. 1101, Page 64, sec. 2704, and Page 65, sec. 2702 )
It forbids insurance companies from discriminating based on a disability, or because they were the victim of domestic abuse in the past (yes, insurers really did deny coverage for that) ( Citation: Page 66, sec. 2705 )
It renews some old policies, and calls for the appointment of various positions.
It creates a new 10% tax on indoor tanning booths. ( Citation: Page 942, sec. 5000B )
It says that health insurance companies can no longer tell customers that they won't get any more coverage because they have hit a "lifetime limit". Basically, if someone has paid for health insurance, that company can't tell that person that he's used that insurance too much throughout his life so they won't cover him any more. They can't do this for lifetime spending, and they're limited in how much they can do this for yearly spending. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2711 )
Kids can continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance until they're 26. ( Citation: Page 34, sec. 2714 )
No more "pre-existing conditions" for kids under the age of 19. ( Citation: Page 64, sec. 2704 and Page 76, sec. 1255 )
Insurers have less ability to change the amount customers have to pay for their plans. ( Citation: Page 66, sec. 2794 )
People in the "Medicare Part D Coverage Gap" (also referred to as the "Donut Hole") get a rebate to make up for the extra money they would otherwise have to spend. ( Citation: Page 398, sec. 3301 )
Insurers can't just drop customers once they get sick. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2712 )
Insurers have to tell customers what they're spending money on. (Instead of just "administrative fee", they have to be more specific).
Insurers need to have an appeals process for when they turn down a claim, so customers have some manner of recourse other than a lawsuit when they're turned down. ( Citation: Page 42, sec. 2719 )
Anti-fraud funding is increased and new ways to stop fraud are created. ( Citation: Page 718, sec. 6402 )
Medicare extends to smaller hospitals. ( Citation: Starting on page 363, the entire section "Part II" seems to deal with this )
Medicare patients with chronic illnesses must be monitored more thoroughly.
Reduces the costs for some companies that handle benefits for the elderly. ( Citation: Page 511, sec. 4202 )
A new website is made to give people insurance and health information. (I think this is it: http://www.healthcare.gov/ ). ( Citation: Page 55, sec. 1103 )
A credit program is made that will make it easier for business to invest in new ways to treat illness by paying half the cost of the investment. (Note - this program was temporary. It already ended) ( Citation: Page 849, sec. 9023 )
A limit is placed on just how much of a percentage of the money an insurer makes can be profit, to make sure they're not price-gouging customers. ( Citation: Page 41, sec. 1101 )
A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn't paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover. ( Citation: Page 819, sec. 9003 )
Employers need to list the benefits they provided to employees on their tax forms. ( Citation: Page 819, sec. 9002 )
Any new health plans must provide preventive care (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without requiring any sort of co-pay or charge. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2713 )
If you make over $200,000 a year, your taxes go up a tiny bit (0.9%). Edit: To address those who take issue with the word "tiny", a change of 0.9% is relatively tiny. Any look at how taxes have fluctuated over the years will reveal that a change of less than one percent is miniscule, especially when we're talking about people in the top 5% of earners. ( Citation: Page 837, sec. 9015 )
This is when a lot of the really big changes happen.
No more "pre-existing conditions". At all. People will be charged the same regardless of their medical history. ( Citation: Page 64, sec. 2704, Page 65, sec. 2701, and Page 76, sec. 1255 )
If you can afford insurance but do not get it, you will be charged a fee. This is the "mandate" that people are talking about. Basically, it's a trade-off for the "pre-existing conditions" bit, saying that since insurers now have to cover you regardless of what you have, you can't just wait to buy insurance until you get sick. Otherwise no one would buy insurance until they needed it. You can opt not to get insurance, but you'll have to pay the fee instead, unless of course you're not buying insurance because you just can't afford it. (Note: On 6/28/12, the Supreme Court ruled that this is Constitutional, as long as it's considered a tax on the uninsured and not a penalty for not buying insurance... nitpicking about wording, mostly, but the long and short of it is, it looks like this is accepted by the courts) ( Citation: Page 164, sec. 5000A, and here is the actual court ruling for those who wish to read it. )
Question: What determines whether or not I can afford the mandate? Will I be forced to pay for insurance I can't afford?
Answer: There are all kinds of checks in place to keep you from getting screwed. Kaiser actually has a webpage with a pretty good rundown on it, if you're worried about it. You can see it here.
Okay, have we got that settled? Okay, moving on...
Medicaid can now be used by everyone up to 133% of the poverty line (basically, a lot more poor people can get insurance) ( Citation: Page 198, sec. 2001 ) (Note: The recent court ruling says that states can opt out of this and that the Federal government cannot penalize them by withholding Medicaid funding, but as far as I can tell, nothing is stopping the Federal government from simply just offering incentives to those who do opt to do it, instead)
Small businesses get some tax credits for two years. (It looks like this is specifically for businesses with 25 or fewer employees) ( Citation: Page 157, sec. 1421 )
Businesses with over 50 employees must offer health insurance to full-time employees, or pay a penalty. ( Citation: Page 174, sec. 4980H )
Question: Can't businesses just fire employees or make them work part-time to get around this requirement? Also, what about businesses with multiple locations?
Answer: Switching to part-time only won't help, as the Affordable Care Act counts the hours worked, not the number of full-time employees you have. So if your employees worked an equivalent of 50 full-time employees' hours, the requirement kicks in. Really, the only plausible way a business could reasonably utilize this strategy is if they currently operate with just over the 50-employee number, and could still operate with under 50 employees, and have no intention to expand. Also, regarding the questions about multiple locations, this legal website analyzed the law and claims that multiple locations in one chain all count as a part of the same business (meaning employers like Wal-Mart can't get around this by being under 50 employees in one store - they'd have to be under that for the entire chain, which just ain't happening). Independently-owned franchises are different, however, as they have a separate owner and as such aren't included under the same net as the parent company. However, any individual franchise with over 50 employees will have to meet the requirement.
Insurers now can't do annual spending caps. Their customers can get as much health care in a given year as they need. ( Citation: Page 33, sec. 2711 )
Limits how high of an annual deductible insurers can charge customers. ( Citation: Page 81, sec. 1302 )
Health insurance cannot discriminate against women on pricing or plan availability ( [Citation: Page 185, sec. 1557(http://housedocs.house.gov/energycom...n.pdf#page=185) )
Reduce costs for some Medicare spending, which in turn are put right back into Medicare to increase its solvency. Most notably, this bill reduces the amount that Medicare Advantage pays to be more in line with other areas of Medicare ( Citation: Page 384, Sec. 3201 and Page 389, Sec. 3202 ), and reduces the growth of Medicare payments in the future ( Citation: Page 426, Sec. 3402 ). The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that between 2012 and 2022, this will amount to $716 Billion in reduced spending ( Citation: CBO Estimate ). Also being cut is $22 Billion from the Medicare Improvement Fund, most likely because the PPACA does a lot of the same stuff, so that spending would be redundant ( Citation: Page 361, Sec. 3112 ).
Place a $2500 limit on tax-free spending on FSAs (accounts for medical spending). Basically, people using these accounts now have to pay taxes on any money over $2500 they put into them. ( Citation: Page 820, sec. 9005 )
Establish health insurance exchanges and rebates for the lower and middle-class, basically making it so they have an easier time getting affordable medical coverage. ( Citation: Page 107, sec. 1311 )
Congress and Congressional staff will only be offered the same insurance offered to people in the insurance exchanges, rather than Federal Insurance. Basically, we won't be footing their health care bills any more than any other American citizen. ( Citation: Page 100, sec. 1312 )
A new tax on pharmaceutical companies.
A new tax on the purchase of medical devices.
A new tax on insurance companies based on their market share. Basically, the more of the market they control, the more they'll get taxed.
Raises the bar for how much your medical expenses must cost before you can start deducting them from your taxes (Thanks to Redditor cnash6 for the correction!).