The ABC’s of the ACA
Molly Morabito | 4/4/14 6:18pm
Like many issues these days, the question of how to best provide healthcare for a nation of more than 330 million people has become highly polarized. With partisan rhetoric from both sides, it can be difficult to gain a realistic understanding of what the Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) actually does and how it will impact your life.
Because it has already been implemented, now’s a good time to get a full understanding of what the ACA will really do—especially if you happen to be graduating in May.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, “around three quarters of those ages 18 to 25 believe it is important for them to personally get insurance and that insurance is worth the cost. However, nearly 80% of those under 30 have heard little to nothing about the marketplace.”
Jennifer Mishory, the deputy director at an organization called Young Invincibles, has a few insights. Young Invincibles works as part of a nationwide campaign seeking to educate young adults about the mechanisms of the new healthcare law.
According to her, college students will likely be impacted by the ACA in three significant ways:
1. Students are now able to enroll in plans without the threat of being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
2. Students who earn less than about $46,000 or families that earn less than $94,000 may be able to access free coverage through Medicaid or discounted coverage through monthly tax credits, depending on the state and their exact income level.
3. New plans will provide free preventive services, annual checkups, prescriptions and substance use disorder services.
If you do not have healthcare insurance or are not on your parents’ plan, it may be a good idea to look at your options sooner than later. Effective this past January, the ACA dictates everyone must have healthcare insurance or face a tax penalty—probably the most controversial part of the law.
Luckily, the ACA also guarantees young adults can remain on their parent’s plan until the age of 26, even if they are married or have coverage through an employer.
Professor Stacy Snelling, who teaches in the AU School of Education Teaching & Health, pointed out via email that while this may not impact undergraduate students, it’s a huge help for life after graduation, because not all graduates find work immediately.
In regards to the accuracy of the “Affordable” part of the legislation’s name, Snelling says, “The U.S. will still outspend most countries on health insurance. But it will cost more money to provide for the additional 20-25 million Americans who do not have health insurance.”
For students whose families do not already have insurance, some universities offer student-oriented plans that are tailored for individuals who are already paying for student loans and tuition fees. AU offers an Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan underwritten by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. All students taking six or more credit hours are eligible to enroll.
However, the plan may not meet the minimum standards required by the ACA for restrictions on annual dollar limits. These limits ensure consumers have sufficient access to medical benefits throughout each year of the policy. While some contend the ACA may have a negative impact on low-cost student healthcare plans (SHPs), it is clear students must stay informed and engaged when it comes to staying covered.
Clearly, the impact of the ACA on college students is not all good or all bad—despite what commentators on most late night news shows would have you believe. Although the ACA is currently in effect, it will likely take some time to see any substantive change in our healthcare system. In the meantime, it’s safe to say we’re not alone in the confusion.