Obamacare: Phase one

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act began last Tuesday with the debut of online insurance marketplaces, which provide a more simplified way to buy healthcare. Uninsured students must find a source of healthcare by March 2014 otherwise they could face fines on their tax return.

Obtaining an insurance plan is becoming increasingly crucial, but the Affordable Care Act may convince all students to get coverage, though it may be a tough task to accomplish. The majority of young adults are alleviated the burden of finding insurance due to the bill extending the age limit they can stay on their parents’ plan from 22 to 26.

Employers nationwide have already begun slashing hours and pushing full-time employees to part-time in order to avoid providing healthcare for their workers. This leaves the few who remain uninsured with two options: either buy an individual plan or apply for federal assistance programs.

Low-income students may qualify for Medicaid, a state-mandated insurance program that covers a percentage of people living below the poverty level. States have been offered the opportunity to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals, but Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced he will not delegate expanding the program until 2014.

Although some believe requiring citizens to buy insurance is unconstitutional, others say it’s the only way the 48 million uninsured Americans will ever have coverage. The bulk of students fall into the country’s most uninsured age group (18-34), primarily because most young adults are healthy and don’t see the need for coverage.

“Yes it’s required now, but I believe preventative care is a good thing,” junior Kylie Morris said. “I don’t think students will understand the value of having insurance until they need it.”

Some students are determined not to buy health insurance even if it means paying a fine. The penalty for not having health insurance in 2014 is equated at 1% of an individual’s annual income (approximately $95 per person).

“If I didn’t have insurance through my parents I think I’d just pay the fine. I have friends at work who are paying the fine because they’d rather not pay $200 a month for insurance they don’t need. I don’t blame them,” junior Alex Wagstaff said.

Penalties for remaining uninsured will be minimal for 2014 but the fee will be subject to an annual increase. According to the insurance marketplace healthcare.gov, the fine will be raised to $695 or 2.5% of an individual’s annual income by 2016.

The only groups that are excluded from paying a fine are illegal immigrants, American Indians, prisoners, or those who belong to a religion that doesn’t allow insurance. Single adults can also be exempt if the online insurance marketplace doesn’t offer a plan with monthly premiums that cost less than 8% of an individual’s income.

The online marketplaces are state-operated and serve as a one-stop-shop for insurance. The site allows buyers to compare prices, determine whether they qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums, and enroll in insurance plans.

Ultimately, students can expect to become familiar with the online insurance marketplace in the near future as the glitches are resolved. As the March deadline approaches it’s crucial for students to research their options for insurance plans and what kind of coverage they need.