Obamacare 101: what students need to know now
“I’ve heard a lot about [health care], but I don’t know too much about it,” said 19-year-old Marco Espinoza, an accounting student at the College of DuPage.
As for what students think politically about the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” many have taken sides.
While Espinoza expressed confusion, he had an overall positive outlook on the law. He is now covered by his parent’s plan, however his family did not have the care before.
“For the longest time, my parents didn’t have insurance, other than free health care. I think the law helps others financially. I see it as a good thing.”
Others had mixed feelings. “Honestly, I really can’t think of anything that’s wrong with it, but I’m not entirely sure about it either,” said Jarvis Mott, a computer science student.
Erica Gittens, a student pursuing nuclear medicine, said the law is detrimental to people. “Most people don’t understand that it’s not really free and that [taxpayers] have to pay for it. The idea sounds good, but it’s never going to work.”
Gittens, who, under the law, will be covered by her parents’ insurance for two more years, reflects a portion of young Americans who disapprove of the health care overhaul. According to a September 2013 Pew Research Center/USA Today poll, only 46 percent of Americans aged 18-29 approved of the health care law, down from 53 percent in September 2010.
Young people are less likely to know what the law entails. According to the same poll, only 56 percent of young adults were aware of the individual mandate. In comparison, 73 percent of people over 30 knew the law requires uninsured people to get health insurance.
Despite the divide among politicians and the public, the nation’s new health insurance system is in full swing with online marketplaces opening up earlier this month. So what does the Affordable Care Act mean for students at the College of DuPage?
Existing health care insurance
Many college students already have health insurance under their parents’ plans. Students having insurance through their parents will be covered until age 26, a provision of the law.
Workers with occupational insurance can leave their employer’s plans and buy a new one through exchanges if they want to; people already on Medicaid or Medicare will stay covered.
The uninsured and exchanges
President Obama and Congress created the Affordable Care Act with an intent to insure those without health care. In order to achieve this, the law requires all Americans to have health insurance. This “individual mandate” includes college students.
The government has created exchanges or online marketplaces where people can compare and shop for plans. Illinois runs its exchange alongside the federal government through getcoveredillinois.gov. The exchanges were designed primarily for people without insurance.
Open enrollment began on Oct. 1 and will end March 31, 2014. If a person does not get insurance by the deadline, they incur a penalty fine.
Protections under the law
Even though the individual mandate riles some detractors, the law has numerous consumer protections that may appease others.
For example, one provision states if a person has an illness or disability and applies for a plan, an insurance company cannot say no to them.
Young adults may also benefit from a variety of protections. Children covered by their parents’ plan can stay on a policy until they turn 26. Many plans must now provide free preventive services like flu vaccines, obesity screening and even counseling to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
The law also requires many plans to cover preventive care for women without a copayment. Services they may take advantage of include birth control, domestic violence counseling and breastfeeding support.
Affordability under act
The “affordable” part of the law mostly applies to individuals and families who are eligible for lower monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The lower costs are a result of government subsidies.
The Courier utilized the online subsidy calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation (a non-partisan health care foundation) to estimate average costs. The information plugged into the calculator was for a single 23-year-old living in Glen Ellyn who made $15,860 for the year; the individual income level just above eligibility for Medicaid.
For a silver plan, the student would pay just $523 on average per year in premiums compared to $1,987 without government subsidies.
Since the law expands Medicaid in several states, low-income households can be eligible for Medicaid if they cannot afford to buy private plans.
COD’s health care coverage
While uninsured students can get covered through the exchange, the College of DuPage also offers basic health insurance through University Health Plans, an insurance broker specializing in health care for college students.
According to Philip Gieschen, the college’s coordinator for risk management, College of DuPage facilitates the program but does not actually offer the insurance. Instead, students purchase the health insurance through the broker.
The student insurance plan applies to those enrolled for a minimum of six credit hours at the college. The plan is very basic and covers up to 10 doctor visits per year.
While the college itself does not provide the insurance, Gieschen said if students had a problem during the process of getting covered, they could contact him.
Gieschen acknowledged since it will take time to see how the law’s effects on play out, it is difficult to gauge what is best for students seeking health care.
“I would say go to the marketplace first, but know that (college-sponsored insurance) is an option.”
Young adults and health care
In the end, beyond the political discourse around health care reform, Gieschen stressed the importance of being educated and covered.
“It’s important that [students] take time to educate themselves and make a selection and to become insured… A lot of students think, ‘I’m Superman, I don’t need this!’ Well, something could happen to anybody. [Insurance] is not something that should be dismissed.”
Marlon Mehu, a business administration student, echoed Gieschen’s advice plainly.
“In the end, insurance is beneficial.”
HEALTH CARE RESOURCES
Anti-Obamacare ads aim to scare students
James Driscoll // Contributor
That’s what new political group Generation Opportunity is telling students about the health care overhaul through scary advertising that has garnered plenty of press.
One of the ads titled “The Exam,” features a young woman receiving a very private health examination when Uncle Sam pops up and the screens fades to black. A message reads, “Don’t let the government play doctor. Opt out of Obamacare.” Another ad features a young man in a similar situation.
According to the group’s website, their mission is to get young people to opt out of insurance offered through marketplaces and choose other types of private health insurance.
The advertisements have garnered plenty of attention. The clip involving the female has been viewed over two million times on YouTube and the male version is drawing plenty of scrutiny as well.
If it’s Generation Opportunity’s idea to draw publicity to their cause, they have succeeded. If it’s positive coverage that they want, then that is a whole different story. Each video has garnered far more “dislikes” than “likes” and there is little to no positive articles on the web as well.
Only time will tell if the campaign has any effect on college students.