Affordable Care Act deadline nears

By Maddox Price

Editor-In-Chief

 

The final push for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – also known as “Obamacare” – is fast approaching. People who are not already covered on a health care plan or do not qualify for exemptions must apply for health insurance by March 31. Coming out of a rough start, the faulty healthcare.gov website has been repaired, according to the administration, and enrollment is rising.

According to the enrollment report released Jan. 13 by the Department of Health and Human Services, 1.2 million people have selected a Health Insurance Marketplace plan since Oct. 1. Despite the increase in enrollment, people 18-34 make up 24 percent of the entire marketplace.

Brookhaven College Political Science professor Ahad Hayaud-Din said the gap in younger participants is a bad thing. “The entire premise of the health care reform is that everyone is in the pool as a customer. As younger Americans opt out, the insurance companies are not able to offset the higher costs associated with covering the elderly,” Hayaud-Din said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas has the highest number of uninsured residents at 24 percent of the population. Brookhaven nurse Mildred Kelley said many of the students who come through the Health Center are not insured.

Kelley said students told her they were putting off signing up because of the website issues. “I have not had one person come in here and say, ‘Wow, this has been successful,’” Kelley said.

The online marketplace offers five insurance plans. Catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum make up the levels of coverage. The platinum plan has the highest premium and the lowest out-of-pocket costs. The catastrophic plan is offered for people under 30. The premium is the lowest, and all medical costs are paid out of pocket until a deductible, “usually several thousand dollars’ worth,” is reached, according to healthcare.gov. All plans cover several free preventive services.

Hayaud-Din said students should set aside an hour and examine the fine print care- fully. “If the cost seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” Hayaud-Din said. He also said the best approach is to look for affordable coverage for major events and take higher co-payments when you are younger and generally healthy.  “You probably won’t need to go to a doctor very often, so paying $100 maybe once per year will save you $200-$300 hundred in annual premiums,” he said.

Kelley said Dallas County Community College District offers links to health plans for students. These options can be viewed at dcccd.edu by searching for “health insurance.”

“These companies’ main focus is student health insurance. They are more for hospitalizations, ER visits, etc. –not much for preventative,” Kelley said.

Kelley and Hayaud-Din both said they strongly suggest students take initiative in their health care. “Maybe this all means we should take a special interest and responsibility for our own health and treating ourselves better with better, nutrition and physical activity,” Kelley said.

Despite the back-and-forth media uproar on the topic, Hayaud-Din said our founding fathers created the Declaration of Independence with the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“You can’t have the second and third parts without the first part. The idea of the ACA was to keep that promise,” he said.