‘Obamacare’ to help or hinder students?

Affordable Care Act increases accessibility but may increase fees

Will students benefit from President Obama’s health care plan?

Beyond increased accessibility, health professionals who treat st

Affordable Care Act increases accessibility but may increase fees

Will students benefit from President Obama’s health care plan?

Beyond increased accessibility, health professionals who treat students at Portland State and other local universities aren’t sure what the recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act will ultimately mean for students’ wallets.


In a landmark decision handed down on June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obama’s signature health care law by a five to four majority, pushing the law over what has been described as “the final hurdle.”

The justices’ decision on the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” was met with equal fervor from both its supporters and detractors. The court, led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, signed off on a key provision of the law: the mandate that individuals able to purchase insurance must do so.

The justices found it unconstitutional for the government to force individuals to purchase insurance. However, they allowed for penalty fees to be levied against those who choose not to purchase insurance.

Dana Tasson, director of student health and counseling at PSU, said that student access to health insurance will change markedly.

“One major way the law affects students is already in effect: allowing students to stay on parents’ health insurance until they are 26. However, while that is a good option for some students, many of our students are older than 26, have parents who do not have health insurance, or cannot afford to pay the premium to be on their parents’ plan,” Tasson said.

The effects of other tenets of the new Affordable Care Act, however, remain somewhat up in the air.

The law also charges states with setting up health insurance exchanges that will be offered to the public. Oregon is one of the first states to start working on this but no one knows what they will look like yet, Tasson explained.

“It is likely that these plans will have high deductibles of $2,000 to $5,000. Those types of plans are generally not very helpful to students since an unexpected $2,000 expense is enough to keep them from returning to school the next term,” Tasson said.

Experts seem to agree that the Affordable Care Act holds potentially positive and negative affects for students. While costs can be cut some places, in others they may be created.

These new rules put insurance companies in unknown territories that, according to University of Portland’s Health Center Director Paul Myers, may cause them to raise rates in an attempt to account for unknown factors.

“So on the one hand, there will be increased access for more students, which is good news, and then on the other hand there’s some unknown cost factors that we just have to wait and see how they settle out,” Myers said.

With the sweeping changes Obama’s law will bring, including covering some 33 million previously uncovered Americans, effects on students seem to be relatively limited, especially if they are on the school’s insurance.

“The law outlines several requirements that health insurance plans must include, such as no pre-existing condition clause, offering preventative care, etc. This fall we will change to a much more comprehensive plan that provides cost-effective coverage for students.

“Students who already have comparable insurance can ‘waive out’ of the plan. While we did not make these changes in response to the Affordable Care Act, we did design the benefit structure to comply with the law in the event it was upheld.” Tasson said.

“This turned out to be a very good decision, because schools who did not plan on this outcome had to drop their plans altogether or hastily put together new plans that complied with the law,” he added.

In the months leading up to November’s election, candidates vie for numbers, and a large percentage of those are students. If Obamacare continues on its path as a politically charged issue, students can expect to have a significant say, as the law bears on them directly.

“The highest court in the land has now spoken,” Obama said in response to the decision to approve the Affordable Care Act.

“We will continue to implement this law, and we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do, what the county can’t afford to do, is re-fight the political battles of two years ago.”

But despite Obama’s hopes, the upholding of the law seems to have only increased the likelihood of those political battles being rehashed. Republican candidate Mitt Romney spoke to voters, cashing in on the charged issue.

“What the court did not do on its last day in session I will do on my first day, if elected president of the United States, and that is I will act to repeal Obamacare,” Romney said, standing behind a podium that read “Repeal and Replace Obamacare.”

“No one yet knows what the law will mean for health care in the larger sense,” Tasson said. “Many health care providers, like myself, hope that it is the first step toward a more cost-effective, equitable and sustainable heath care system for our country.”