Students nationwide may have to rethink their post-college health insurance policies if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed by the new United States administration.
The ACA, widely known as “ObamaCare,” is a federal statute that was signed into law by Former President Barack Obama in 2013. The law mandates that every American purchase a health insurance plan and forbids insurance companies from denying users coverage because of pre-existing conditions, among other provisions. President Donald Trump and republicans in Congress promised to repeal and replace the ACA, but it’s unclear what the law will be replaced with.
Just hours after being sworn in, Trump signed an executive order allowing federal agencies to grant waivers, exemptions and delays to ACA provisions that would place costs on individuals or states.
However, if the ACA is repealed without a similar replacement, many college students and recent graduates will lose key healthcare benefits provided to them by the law.
Staying on parents’ insurance
One of these benefits, political science associate professor Jennifer Denbow said, is the provision that allows individuals to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26. Without this provision, college students and recent graduates will lose their current plans and have to pay for their own health insurance — if they can afford it, that is.
“If healthy young people aren’t forced to get health insurance, they won’t. And therefore costs for people who have health insurance and who really need it will go up,” Denbow said. “Insurance works because everyone pools their risk, and it only works if there are low risk populations and high risk populations pooling their resources.”
For college students with pre-existing conditions who may lose coverage under their parents’ policies, repealing the ACA could mean even more trouble.
“You can’t be denied insurance under the [Affordable Care Act] if you have a pre-existing condition,” Denbow said. “So if suddenly a lot of college-aged students lose their insurance because they’re no longer covered under their parents’ insurance, then it could potentially be harder to find alternative insurance.”
Even for those without pre-existing conditions, repealing the ACA could have major consequences for women and low-income students.
“Another important aspect of the Affordable Care Act is that it provides coverage without a co-pay for contraceptives,” Denbow said. “That’s really important to college-aged people, generally. So suddenly the cost of paying for contraceptives will, if the [ACA] is repealed, go up.”
The ACA also expanded Medicaid coverage in the states that agreed to it, including California. Medicaid offers insurance coverage to low-income people — so, if the ACA is repealed, low-income students would face higher costs.
Cal Poly Health Center
For Cal Poly students, repealing the ACA would primarily impact those looking for treatment outside of the campus Health Center.
Murphy said in a statement emailed on behalf of Dr. Aaron Baker, medical director at Cal Poly Health Services that there would be little effect on the Health Center.
“The [Affordable Care Act] has little effect on the care provided at the Health Center because we are not dependent on insurance for the services or prescriptions we provide to students,” said Yukie Murphy, director of marketing and communications for Student Affairs.
However, if prices for medications like birth control rise, Murphy said the cost at the health center could rise as well.
“The student’s medication charge depends on the price of the medication,” Murphy said. “If the cost to the Health Center for a medication increases, and we are unable to find it more affordably, that increased cost is passed on to the student.”