Obamacare aims to give more healthy options to Miami students and faculty
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 18:10
Many of America’s 47 million medically uninsured flooded the new exchange marketplace seeking coverage when the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment provision commenced last week.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in March 2010 President Barack Obama signed comprehensive health reform dubbed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. The law generates a health care system that aims to be more accessible and affordable for Americans, and also mandates that all citizens must be insured.
Americans previously covered by private medical insurance will most likely go unaffected with the change, according to Health and Human Services, and those families making less than $31,000 a year can receive free health insurance via Medicaid. However, the remaining 20 percent of Americans must purchase standard health insurance from an online marketplace called the exchange.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan and nonprofit health research company, 27 percent, roughly 12.7 million, of those without health insurance in America are young adults. The law commonly referred to as “Obamacare” will continue to affect students and some part-time employees, especially since the government’s online marketplace opened Oct. 1.
“They now have this increased access to obtain health insurance,” Dawn Fahner, Miami’s director of Employee Benefits and Wellness, said. “Those that couldn’t obtain coverage, couldn’t obtain affordable coverage, have increased access to coverage.”
The option to purchase health insurance through the government marketplace is now available for Miami staff and faculty who were employed less than 32 hours per week and nine months a year, Fahner said.
The case of Miami students, however, is different, as Miami had already implemented its own form of the law by requiring all students to be insured, either through their family or through the university.
“All students are technically covered today,” David Creamer, vice president for Finance and Business Services said.
However, Creamer noted that the implementation of this provision of the ACA provides those students who are not covered by their families an additional insurance option.
“The thing that continues to be examined is what is the best option for these students whose families aren’t covering them to acquire that insurance, whether that will continue to be through a policy purchased through the university or will there potentially be points where it may be more advantageous to purchase it through the exchange,” Creamer said.
Janae Arno, practice manager at the Student Health Center, pointed to an advantage for any such student continuing to use Miami’s health insurance.
“One benefit with the university insurance versus the Affordable Care is that our insurance goes on the bursar account,” Arno said. “So if you have grants, moneys, loans, your insurance is covered, whereas outside of there you will be responsible for it yourself.”
Arno is optimistic about Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s impact on Miami’s campus and on a larger scale.
“The fact is it increases the options for everybody,” Arno said. “They get to pick and choose what you get almost like a fast food drive-through. You get to kind of create and build your own insurance if that’s what you need for you and your family.”
The drawback that Arno and others have seen is that the law requires everyone to have healthcare or pay a fee, which some view as an encroachment on their freedom of choice.
“The downside is that people are going to be forced to make a decision,” Arno said.
Creamer also acknowledged the apprehensions of those who are opposed to this law.
“There are concerns on the other side about losing the choice to decide whether you have health insurance or not because there are certain penalties if you don’t acquire that insurance,” Creamer said.
The fee, according to healthcare.gov, the government’s new health insurance marketplace, will be 1 percent of an individual’s yearly income or $95, whichever figure is higher, in 2014. This rate increases each year and, in 2016, the fee will be 2.5 percent of income or $695.
While she sees only positives now, Arno said hindsight is 20/20.
“I don’t see anything bad, as of right now,” Arno said. “But in year from now, two years form now, I’m sure there’s going to be all kinds of things that come out like, ‘that was not a good idea, we should have done this differently.’”
As for Miami, the administration is waiting for clarification on how it can abide by the new law.
“There is still an awful lot of unknown,” Creamer said. “There is a lot for us to continue to monitor and follow and that’s what we continue to do, to try and understand what the law requires us to do and to operate in a way that complies with that.”