The House of Representatives will vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, while Republicans try to ensure enough votes to pass its proposed replacement — the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — March 23.
President Donald J. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have been promoting the replacement plan while some Republicans in Congress voiced concern over the bill not being conservative enough.
On March 20, House Republicans released several amendments to address fellow party members’ criticisms. One amendment would shrink Medicaid, which covers some medical costs for low-income people, by requiring able-bodied recipients to work and would allow states to choose whether to receive Medicaid in individual block grants.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that nearly 24 million Americans could be uninsured by 2026 under the new health care law.
But for students covered by Loyola’s student health insurance, there may be little to no difference in their plans.
Loyola requires all undergraduate students enrolled in at least 12 credit hours and all graduate students enrolled in at least eight credit hours to have health insurance. The student health insurance is provided by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, which students are automatically enrolled in unless they waive out by submitting proof of coverage under another plan.
Of the approximately 12,000 students automatically enrolled in the student insurance plan, about 4,000 waive out, according to Loyola Bursar John Campbell.
Campbell said Obamacare caused the student health plan costs to rise since the legislation took effect in 2014.
“Before [Obamacare], we had more control over the plans, and we could have all our students in a plan that was not based upon outside factors,” Campbell said. “We could formulate a health care plan that’s really designed towards young healthy students … You could do those types of things that wouldn’t impact the care of the student but would reduce the amount of the premium.”
Although students are not using more health insurance than they previously were, Obamacare requires Loyola to pay for more types of coverage that students don’t necessarily use.
“Some of the prescriptions that might be required for [senior citizens] wouldn’t be needed for a college student, of course,” Campbell said.
Two other factors that drove up costs were Obamacare allowing people to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26 and prohibiting companies from denying insurance to people with preexisting conditions, or previous illnesses.
“[Obamacare] made us mandate several items that we had to provide whether our students needed it or not,” Campbell said.
The passage of the AHCA would not likely bring down the cost of the student health insurance, Campbell noted, because a lot of those cost-driving factors wouldn’t change.
The AHCA would still let people stay on their parent’s plan until age 26 and keeps companies from denying people coverage based on preexisting conditions.
The bill abolishes other parts of Obamacare, such as the individual mandate, the requirement to have health insurance or face a tax penalty and the employer mandate to offer health care to employees.
“What’s proposed [in the AHCA] won’t really have an impact on us,” Campbell said.
Most significantly, the AHCA changes the rules for how health care is subsidized by the government. Health care subsidies would be based on age instead of income.
Students from low-income families who are currently covered by Obamacare could be without insurance if the subsidies disappear.
Some Loyola students covered by Obamacare said they like the coverage for its affordability and are worried about its possible repeal.
“As a person who comes from a low-income family, [Obamacare] was extremely helpful, and it made you feel like someone cared about where you’re coming from,” said senior Ola Wysocki.
The 22-year-old communication and international studies double major said Obamacare made her family and her less weary to visit the doctor and pay a lot of money.
“Not everyone can afford [health insurance],” Wysocki said. “It is a luxury for people.”
Loyola senior political science major David Evers said the AHCA’s proposed change from subsidies based on income to age-based subsidies has him worried.
“We’re lucky in my family not to have any major health concerns right now, but not having health insurance, it’s a very real possibility that we won’t be able to purchase health insurance after this point,” said the 21-year-old.
First-year Reid Willis opposes Obamacare and said while he thinks the AHCA is not perfect, it shows the Republicans are fulfilling their promises.
“I love the fact that the Republicans now have a plan to repeal [Obamacare],” the 19-year-old political science and international studies double major said. “I don’t agree with everything in that plan … but I am very pleased that they are doing something.”
Junior Michael Delos Reyes, 20, said it helps that he is able to remain covered under his parents until age 26.
“You save a lot of money,” the chemistry major said. “I’m lucky I don’t have to struggle paying for anything … I think I’ll be ready by the time I’m 26 to just handle everything myself.”
Dr. Regina Conway-Phillips, a Loyola health systems management professor, said the health care proposal has her concerned about the equal availability of health insurance. She said she thought Obamacare was good for covering people regardless of income and allowing students to stay on parent plans.
“I believe health care is a right and not a privilege,” Conway-Phillips said. “I felt that [Obamacare], although not perfect, did address many of the concerns I had as a health care provider with regards to people having access to health care.”