Healthcare ruling extends student coverage
Published: Monday, July 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012 01:07
Carlos Hernandez breathed a sigh of relief last Thursday as the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act along with its mandate to enforce universal health insurance coverage was announced.
The decision to uphold the act will allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, forbid insurance companies from denying services based on pre-existing conditions and change the eligibility requirements for the government-funded Medicaid. All U.S. citizens will now be required to purchase some form of health insurance.
Hernandez, a senior majoring in international business, is currently covered under his mother’s health insurance plan and uses healthcare services from eye exams to dental appointments a few times a year. The last thing he wants to think about when graduating, he said, is finding a new plan.
“The Affordable Care Act will help me by allowing me to stay on my parents’ insurance until I am 26, which is great because the job climate is not so hot for recent graduates today, and I was beginning to worry about how I would deal with any health issues after leaving home,” he said.
But unlike Hernandez, about 49.9 million Americans, including about 30 percent of 19- to 25-year-olds, are uninsured and will now be provided with greater access to healthcare — services that have had increasingly high costs, according to the 2010 Census. In the state of Florida alone, 224,000 19- to 25-year-olds have gained health insurance from the policy since it was enacted in 2010.
The Act will cover the full costs of preventative health services, such as vaccinations and cancer screenings, which at the Student Health Services (SHS) center could cost up to $150 without insurance co-pays. Those with income under $15,000 will now have access to Medicaid, which the federal government will fund fully for three years.
But Gov. Rick Scott told Fox News on Friday that he was “not going to implement Obamacare in Florida” or expand Medicaid, which he said would increase taxes for Floridians.
Diane Zanto, Interim Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness and Senior Director of SHS, said the Act is of much importance to the college-age demographic.
“It does impact, particularly, those who are uninsured or underinsured,” she said. “Young adults, because of their developmental stages, take more risks than people who are middle-aged or older. The highest number of accidents and injuries occur when you’re young. So it is catastrophic for someone if they get into a car accident or they suffer from multiple injuries or broken bones and that kind of thing. You never know when disease or illness will strike, but when it does hit, it is such a huge financial load that you literally could not recover from it in a lifetime.”
In 2009 and 2010, SHS and former Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Alan Kent proposed a policy that would mandate all students to have health insurance. The policy was put on Student Government election ballots but was rejected both times.
Yet Zanto said it is too early to determine whether the idea will be abandoned completely.
“That remains to be seen, and we’re going to watch that closely,” she said. “Theoretically, those persons that are not insured should be eligible for Medicaid, and given that, it might be more likely that we would enforce some sort of mandate like that to make sure that students don’t slip between the cracks and come in without any insurance and create havoc within the educational system because they had some sort of a medical mishap.
“But really, at this point, we shouldn’t have to mandate it, because the federal government is mandating it,” she said. “Whether they see usas a watchdog in terms of compliance ... that hasn’t been mentioned yet.”
USF also offers limited coverage via the Student Medical Insurance Plan — a plan Zanto said may no longer be needed with the increased options expected to be available following the Court’s decision.
Roman Carrigan, who graduated in May with a degree in health sciences and a minor in public health, said he is grateful that he can remain on his parents’ plan until he finds a job. From an academic standpoint, he said he is even more excited.
“I feel that this is a major accomplishment for American healthcare,” he said. “I think that it is very unappealing for many Americans that they will have to pay for insurance or be fined a penalty, but this section of the law has to exist in order for this new system to work. I think that 10 years from now the numbers will show that we will be a much healthier country than we are today.”
While Carrigan said he is grateful that he will continue to have access to services that would “otherwise cost a fortune if it were out of pocket,” he said he is not sure other college students fully appreciate the value of the Act.
“To other college students, I do not think that it is the most important thing to them now because we are young and it is rare for us to need to utilize the health system much,” he said. “But of course as we get older, I think that we will want things in place for healthcare to be affordable and also for things like pre-existing conditions to be deleted from the system.”
Hernandez said the Act has come as a security blanket during an economically unstable time.
“I feel that healthcare is very important to me, and I feel secure knowing that I have coverage,” he said. “You never know when an emergency will happen, and you need to have medical procedures done — and in the United States, that can bury you in debt.”
Affordable Care Act highlights:
- People under the age of 26 can remain insured by their parents’ plans.
- No insurance companies can deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
- Preventative health care services, such as cancer screenings and vaccinations, will be free of cost.
- Single people with income under $15,000 may be eligible for Medicaid.
- Single people with income under $43,000 may be eligible for tax credits toward purchasing insurance.