Prescription costs for Alisha Axsom’s migraines have racked up a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars in the past 13 years.

The newer provision would not affect students using the Health Center because the center doesn't accept health insurance, and any costs are already paid for by a Heath Services Fee included in tuition or out of pocket. Mustang Daily File Photo.

Health insurance has helped cover most of these costs and became essential to Axsom’s well-being. But because she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in June, she was no longer covered by her mother’s health insurance. She was dropped from her mother’s plan, only to be put back on three months later when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

The act allowed her to stay insured until age 26 and alleviated the mounting worry and pressure Axsom and her mother felt to find her own provider so soon after graduating.

“I didn’t get a job in the field (after graduation), so it was nice to know that I would still have insurance for the next three years,” Axsom said. “My mom was just stoked. I’ve had migraines since I was 10 and we’ve been dealing with this for a long time. She was really happy that we weren’t going to have to look into getting my own health insurance.”

Axsom would have payed approximately $2,985 annually for her own insurance, the average premium cost for single coverage, according to a report in 2009 by America’s Health Insurance Plans Center for Policy and Research.

The Health Reform Bill that eased Axsom’s financial burden brought is the largest change to health care policy since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid, more than four decades ago. Its effects vary in magnitude and many aspects are still unknown or confusing to Americans.

Some major revisions include policies mandating health insurers cannot deny children health insurance because of pre-existing conditions or revoke someone’s insurance when he or she gets sick.

The provision that potentially affects Cal Poly students the most extends the age limit that a dependent can remain on their parents’ health plan until age 26, up from 22.

Part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the aforementioned provision stipulates that health care providers must enforce this new age limit, provided that the dependents are claimed on tax reports and are not already insured by an employer. Even those who have outgrown dependent coverage and were removed from their parents’ plan before the bill was passed last September can re-enroll, a policy started on Jan. 1.

Previously, health insurance companies dropped those who reached the age of 22, did not live with their parents or were not students. All of these restrictions have been lifted, even if the child is married.

The cost of adding dependents to existing health plans has now increased 0.7 percent, or $28, for all dependents, regardless of age. This translates to an average $3,400 (tax-deductible) policy for each dependent, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. It estimated 1.83 million uninsured young people would be affected by the law.

Considering the targeted age group of the provision, the local impact seems minimal where approximately half of the population is under 26 years of age.

“Most (Cal Poly) students are under their parents’ plan until graduation and then move out of the area or are provided for by an employer,” said Megan Maloney, communications specialist at French Hospital Medical Center. Maloney said she suspects that, so far, the law has had little effect on Cal Poly students.

Students don’t need insurance to receive medical attention at any of the major health facilities in San Luis Obispo.

The Health Center neither records nor accepts insurance; all expenses not covered by the Health Service Fee included in tuition are paid out of pocket.

Local hospitals also don’t require insurance to be treated, because another part of the Health Care Reform Bill makes hospital emergency rooms open to anyone, including those who are uninsured.

“It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not,” Maloney said. “We’re going to see you in our hospital.”

Spokesman for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, Ron Yukelson, said while the new law is a tremendous step toward better health coverage for everyone, he doesn’t think it’s been enacted long enough to notice anything substantial.

“We have not noticed more Cal Poly students coming to the emergency room,” Yukelson said.

Many students have no knowledge of these services or provisions at all, much less have experienced its implications, before or after. Younger students between the ages of 18 to 21, remain relatively carefree about their health insurance, unless they and their parents are without it altogether.

Kinesiology junior Ryane Duddy said the necessity for health insurance is too far in the future to be concerned with now. When her parents were notified of the changed law, they had neither a positive nor negative reaction to its benefits. And when her 26-year-old sister was dropped from her parents’ plan a few years ago, she took the situation lightheartedly, often joking about it, Duddy said, and now receives insurance through her employer.

Health coverage has never been an issue for her family, but Duddy is comforted by the extra security.

“It’s nice to know I have time to search around for jobs with health insurance when I graduate,” she said.

Even some older graduate students have had few issues with keeping health insurance. Psychology graduate student, Callie Boller, 25, aged out of her parents’ health plan three years ago, but qualified for low-income coverage through Health Works. She is now insured through her husband’s employer and said she was unaware this law had been enacted, having never been without health care.

While the bill has been in effect for almost four months, there are no conclusive studies or surveys to show exactly how the Affordable Care Act has been affecting the nation, and more specifically, young adults under 26.

The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Health Policy Research recently conducted a survey with the top seven insurance companies in California. When asked directly how many people have been affected by this policy, none were able to give a concrete answer. The survey showed that no one in the nation has compiled this particular data. The UCLA center itself won’t have hard facts until the end of the year.

“It’s just too soon to be able to assess the impact,” Director of Health Insurance studies at the UCLA center Shana Levarreda said.

She has, however, noticed a lot of interest regarding the change in policy and heard personal stories from parents who have already felt the effects, she said.

“The biggest benefit is that their graduating college students are not losing their insurance,” she said.

Axsom, comforted by the support the Affordable Care Act has given her, is relieved to have extra time searching for the right options when she will again outgrow dependent coverage. “I definitely hope to find a job that offers benefits and, if not, I have a little bit of cushion to at least look for my own insurance,” she said.

She also commented on the largely unaffected student body, suggesting that without a great need for health insurance, it’s not a pressing concern.

“If I didn’t have migraines, it wouldn’t be that big (of) a deal,” Axsom said.

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3 Comments

  1. Now all the conservatives at our school can enjoy their universal health care that they despise so much. Awesome.

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