Health Care Bill affects young adults

The debate on health care reform has been a hot topic of discussion since President Obama took office in January of last year. After a year of bitter partisan combat, the president signed legislation on March 23, 2010 to drastically change the nation’s health care system. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a 219 to 212 vote.

Young adults and college students are affected by the passing of the Reconciliation Bill in a number of ways. While the majority of college-age Americans do not pay for their own health insurance, the bill will mandate and provide health services in the years ahead.

One particular reform under Title I of the bill is sure to please many college students and young Americans. It allows parents to keep their children on their insurance plan until the age of 26. That provision takes affect this year.

“I find it really hard to believe that any person (of college) age could independently afford insurance, but if you have a parent who has insurance now you can be covered by their plan until an older age,” USUAA President Michaela Hernandez said. “This could cover the entirety of your college experience as well as graduate school, so you wouldn’t be forced to find insurance until you actually enter the workforce.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science April Susky recently met a young woman working as a barista. The barista told Susky she had to have a tooth pulled because she could not afford a root canal and she did not get heath coverage from her employer.

“That really made me angry: this beautiful hard-working young girl, barely out of her teens, had to make a bad health decision because the good decision was priced beyond her means,” Susky said. “My great grandma had to have her teeth pulled, but she was a pioneer, for crying out loud.”Also starting this year, insurance companies will be barred from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions. Recently, there was some debate concerning whether or not the insurance industry would try to block the Obama administration’s efforts due to questions about the law’s intent and wording. Law applicable to the immediate coverage of kids could also be interpreted in a more limited way that would still allow companies to turn down children with pre-existing conditions. Insurers have accepted the new regulations, however, guaranteeing children with medical problems can receive coverage starting this year.

By 2014, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage to adult patients with pre-existing medical conditions or charging them more because of these conditions. New law limits an industry practice of charging older costumers more.

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Young adults are not as fortunate. According to an estimate by Rand Health, health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent over the next four years. Purchasing health insurance will be required by then.

The bill is to be paid for by a combination of tax hikes on the wealthy and cuts in Medicare. Companies in the medical industry will also be subject to higher taxes, including insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers.

Gov. Sean Parnell has expressed grave concern over the passage of the bill. The governor is concerned with the impacts the bill will have on Alaska’s seniors, families, small businesses and physicians. He shares the view with other Americans that forcing citizens into a health care plan they don’t want and one that the nation can’t afford is unconstitutional.

Since the bill has been passed, government institutions in the state have been analyzing its financial impacts to Alaska. The analysis is not completed at this time.

“The state is going to be spending more money to implement programs and it doesn’t do anything to address the medical workforce shortage we have (in Alaska),” Gov. Parnell’s press secretary Sharon Leighow said. “If individuals are mandated to purchase health insurance, that is definitely a burden on the citizens of Alaska.”

The partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the bill will cost $938 billion over 10 years and will reduce the national deficit by more than $100 billion over the same period.

“I think it’s very accurate when the COB says the greatest way to cut the deficit is to do something about how much of our (gross domestic product) we spend on health care,” Hernandez said. “I think (the nation) needs some sort of reform.”

Effective January 1, 2011, insurance companies will be required to cover preventive services, such as vaccines that are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Student Health and Counseling Center at UAA currently provides students access to high quality and affordable primary outpatient and preventative health care. Students who are registered for six or more credits for the current semester and have paid the SHCC fee for that semester are eligible for services. There is no charge for physical or mental office visits. Physical exams, tuberculosis skin tests (PPDs) and HIV screens are also free.

Despite the heath care bill being passed, family nurse practitioner of SHCC, Betty Bang, doubts the services or nature of the office will change, as student fees pay for most of the services.

Many of the provisions, with the exception of the prescription drug coverage for older Amercians and children who have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, are not expected to go into effect until 2014.