Earlier this week, the expert herself, President Donna E. Shalala, answered all our health care questions. Whether a touchy subject for some or no-man’s land for others, the health care debate is at the top of every social agenda, on the “Top Stories” tab on news sites, and the subject of every current events class. If it didn’t seem prevalent to us before, it is now more than ever. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins on Oct. 1, 2013. What does this mean for us students? For the newly employed? For those unemployed? For those using UM’s health insurance policy? Where do we get this info?
“You’re the resources,” said President Shalala. “This is why I’m here. We thought we’d start with student press because students are more likely to read and watch what you put out.” The president kindly sat down for a press conference with student media to answer all of our questions and give us some insight into the new health care legislation. The statement of the hour: “It’s really not that complicated.”
What seemed extremely complex and unfeasible for the average young adult was put into lucidity. “This is an attempt by the national government to make sure every American has access to good health insurance. It’s one thing to say ‘everyone should have health insurance,’ it’s another thing on whether they can afford to get it or not. All of our experiences show that when you make it affordable, people take it,” explained Shalala. In summary, that’s what the ACA will do: make health insurance affordable and provide subsidies. So will people actually take it?
“I do believe everybody ought to have health insurance because those of us that have insurance end up paying for those who don’t. But it may be the responsibility of the government to make it affordable so they can get it,” said Shalala. Obtaining health insurance is equally as important to students as to anyone else. Why?
“To keep themselves healthy, it’s pretty fundamental. It’s very important that University’s don’t push their healthcare costs onto the community. It’s unfair for Doctor’s Hospital or UMH to pay for students who don’t have health insurance. If you don’t have it, then the next person who walks into the doctor’s office has to cover your cost because the hospitals have to shift their costs onto someone. Unless we all have insurance and spread the risk, the whole concept of insurance is undermined,” said Shalala. Some students, in fact, feel secure in the that they will be guaranteed insurance under their parents’ plan until age 26. But not all parents can afford health insurance, and not all students are dependent on their parents.
“This plan takes care of that,” said Shalala. “Their parents will be able to buy affordable health insurance all across the country. They’ll get subsidized if their income is under 150% of poverty and the student will be able to buy health insurance when they’re 27 or 21. Or actually, if they are independent students, they will have access to government subsidies. They’ll be able to buy either the university’s health insurance or be able to go into the exchanges.”
We hear the word “exchanges” being tossed around the health care debate. Put simply: most people get health insurance through their employers. But people without this option, especially students coming out of college who work part-time, freelance or through other non-traditional arrangement, will now be able to shop for health insurance on exchanges as an alternative to buying coverage from individual health insurers. Shoppers can use a price calculator to see if they qualify for subsidies and see side-by-side comparisons of qualified health plans ensuring the best deal for them. Exchanges are new and easy to use and they’ll be open for business online in October 2013, allowing consumers to shop for health plans that will begin on Jan. 1.
Our generation is a crucial component to the success of the ACA. Experts say that the exchange will only work if it fills up with healthy young people. President Shalala says, “Young people, particularly young people who are working, will sign up for the exchanges because they will check what the exchanges are. So I think it’s extremely important to sign up young workers who don’t have access to health insurance. You do need some young people, but the truth is you need people that are healthy, it doesn’t make any difference weather they are young or old. What you want is for a lot of healthy people to sign up so that we can take care of the sick people when they need healthcare.”
This means us. “Now, young people are going to have to sign up,” Shalala continues. “Young people at the university are either going to get insurance form the university or through their parents, or I think a large number are going to check the exchanges. In general, student health insurance is not terrific. It’s affordable, but not terrific. And I want students, particularly those that are independent and are working, to check and see if they can get a better deal. And that’s the point: to see weather young people will get stronger insurance on the exchanges. We’re happy to provide student health insurance, but it could be that they get a better policy if they go into the exchanges. It’s not going to particularly save us money, but we want to make sure our students get high quality insurance.”
Post-reform, Shalala sheds some light on our future. “Everyone will now have to have insurance, there will be few exceptions. There will be more income for physicians, health providers, nurses, etc. because more people will have insurance. This also means that a trillion dollars will be put into the healthcare industry. For students, this means they should look into the healthcare industry for jobs in the future because it’s going to be much more dynamic,” she explained.
With our knowledge expanded and some worries assuaged, we can expect us ‘Canes to make the most healthful decisions this October. Thank you for the words of wisdom, President Shalala.
Her advice to students: “They’ve got to get online- and our students are better at that than older people- on Oct. 1 and take a look and plug in their income, if they have any, and see weather they’re eligible for insurance. They’ll find out two things: whether they are eligible and how much it will cost. They’ll be able to model it after that. And we don’t have a student that can’t do that. I have great confidence in them.”
Coming from the longest serving Health and Human Services Secretary in U.S. history, and agreeably our favorite Hurricane, I’d take that advice if I were you.
More information on ACA can be found at www.healthcare.gov or www.hhs.gov/healthcare and a subsidy calculator suggested by President Shalala can be found at http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/
words_rachel kliger. photo_courtesy of School of Communications.