Obamacare, what you need you know for January 1st

There is a lot of information floating around about what Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is and how it impacts everybody. From young college students to middle-aged, career-driven adults, to seniors living on social security; it seeks to level the playing field and put our healthcare needs in our hands. It’s been under fire regarding  speculation that it will place undue hardship on ordinary tax-paying citizens through the use of penalties if one chooses to go without insurance. While this is partially true, it is blown way out of proportion and used as a fear-mongering tactic to drive people away from supporting the ACA. However, the Congressional Budget Office – the non-partisan governing body in charge of running the numbers, has said that it will lower both the deficit and medicare spending.

There are four main facets to the ACA that you should know about, especially as you leave school and its sponsored health insurance. Congratulations if you land an awesome job with awesome benefits right out of school; you need not worry about the ACA.  However,  if you’re one of the many people that don’t get benefits through your new post-grad job,  the health insurance offered is too expensive or you get little for what you pay, the ACA has your back.

Catastrophic health insurance: The ACA has enabled young adults to be covered under their parents’ insurance until they are 26. From 26 -30 you have the opportunity to purchase catastrophic health insurance at a much lower rate. Although this comes with a deductible of $6,000, this is also the maximum out-of-pocket cost. Considering an appendectomy will run you upwards of $30,000, this is a steal of a deal.

Medicaid expansion: Under the ACA, medicaid will be expanded to include all adults living at or below 138 percent of the poverty line, or $15,856 for a single person. This includes everything you would need, including primary care visits, reproductive health care, prescription drug benefits and surgeries.

Health Insurance Marketplace: For those who are living between 139 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line ($45,960 for a single person, $78,120 for a family of 3), there will be tax credits available to go online and buy your own health insurance. This puts you at an advantage as the insurance companies are vying for your business and will play by the rules. They cannot charge you more for a preexisting condition, or your sex, and are required to  provide you with primary care, maternity care, mental health, and prescriptions. Of course you have the choice of buying a silver, bronze or gold plan, but the choice is yours regarding how much or how little you want to spend.

Penalties if you choose to go uninsured: This is the kicker — the one part of the ACA that everybody is up in arms about. Yes, you will be penalized if you choose to go without insurance. Yes, it can be a pretty penny. However, there is no excuse to go without insurance when the ACA makes it darn near impossible to do so. When people go to the emergency room instead of a primary care physician it drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone, not to mention that a good number of those people who use the ER often leave their bills unpaid. The government indirectly pays for all of those unpaid ER bills that are accrued by uninsured people. From 2014 through the end of 2015, the individual penalty for uninsured people will be $95 or 1 percent of income over minimum filing (the minimum you have to make to be required to file an income tax return, $9,750 for a single person), whichever is greater. In 2016 the penalty will be raised to $695, or 2.5 percent of income over the filing minimum. However, if you cannot afford health insurance on your own, or even the fee, it will be waived.

You’re probably wondering what this means to you, right now, as a Portland State college student. We pay $594 each term for health insurance through PSU, which works out to be a whopping $148.50 a month. Thanks to the ACA you can now choose your own insurance at a price you can pay as long as it covers everything the PSU insurance covers. The insurance marketplace is live as of October 1st, so take a look around for yourself here.

Of the students asked about their opinion of the ACA, a majority of them agreed that it is a step in the right direction, and it’s about time to implement something like this. While it’s not a perfect fix to our broken healthcare system,  it can certainly be seen as a stepping stone towards a single payer system. As it stands, The United States is the only industrialized nation not to have universal healthcare. In short, the ACA is going to be good for the country, good for you, and good for your future family. There is nothing to be afraid of, as this solution is a great step towards ending the healthcare inequality that plagues this nation. If you have any other questions, please reach out to me through comments.

In the meantime, here are some short videos you can watch to get better acquainted with the ACA and how healthcare is structured in this country:

Kaiser Foundation: The Youtoons Get Ready for Obamacare

John Green: Why Are American Health Care Costs So High?