By Kayla Wiles, Columnist
College-aged young people may have the easiest time getting health insurance under pending health care reform, while older and sicker groups struggle to pay for coverage during an initial health cost spike, according to a March 13 report by the Congressional Budget Office.
If passed in its current form, the proposed American Health Care Act would replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, and could result in 14 million fewer people with health insurance next year. The CBO report says that this number roughly equates to six million fewer with private insurance, five million fewer with Medicaid and two million fewer with insurance provided by their jobs. This would happen because the new law would repeal the Obamacare penalty, called an individual mandate, for people not buying insurance. The short-term result could be increased costs on the market that make plans less affordable.
Young people, however, will continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance until age 26 under the American Health Care Act.
Even though most Furman students have parents who receive their insurance from one of these means expected to take a hit, the CBO anticipates cheaper premiums – the price paid before an insurance plan takes effect – for young people if they tried to buy insurance themselves on the market. This is because funding for Medicaid would scale back, forcing older and sicker people to buy private insurance.
Buying insurance is an option that Furman students might have to consider in the coming years if their parents could not afford the projected increase in premiums under the new law.
“You need to know that not all employers offer health insurance,” said Elizabeth Holt, a health sciences professor who does research on the factors that influence chronic disease management – one of which is the affordability of care. “If you start your own company or you have a part-time job, then you’re going to have to go looking for it yourself. It will probably be less expensive than it would have been, but you all aren’t going to be thinking about that when you sign up for health insurance – you’re just going to see how much it costs and budget for it.”
Insurance pays for care that treats diseases as well as care that prevents them, such as regular physicals and check-ups. “Most of you don’t have chronic diseases, but there is cost-saving involved in preventative care,” Holt said.
According to public health professor Meghan Slining, students should also think about health access on a community level when learning the details of how the American Health Care Act might replace Obamacare.
“It is important that we all understand that the ‘costs’ of uninsured and underinsured individuals are paid by everyone in the system,” she said. “In addition to societal well-being, a healthier population is important for economic productivity.”
Despite more people enrolling into Obamacare nationwide, plans are still not affordable for the low-income worker who suffers from a chronic disease – the so-called gap between those who receive coverage from Medicaid and those who can afford health care coverage on the market.
A 2015 survey by the think tank The Commonwealth Fund states that this gap has persisted during Obamacare, with health care costs unaffordable for 53 percent of privately-insured people with low incomes.
“People have said that we have a fundamentally flawed health care system,” Holt said. “Every plan that gets put out there is going to have major flaws. We just have to figure out what the best one is for our situation.”