The Affordable Care Act has been debated for the past four years, and with its policy beginning Jan. 1, St. Thomas Health services is embracing the new benefits.
With potential coverage for pre-existing conditions, family plans available until the age of 26 and new health insurance business procedures, the bill seems attractive to Director of Health Services and Wellness Center Nurse Practitioner Madonna McDermott.
McDermott said the new family plan aspect will help St. Thomas students stay covered throughout their college experience.
“One of the broadest impacts of the Health Care Reform Law on students occurred shortly after President Obama signed the law in 2010 by mandating that insurance companies allow extension of family health insurance plans to cover young adults until age 26,” McDermott said.
McDermott said before the Health Care Reform Law, insurance companies could remove enrolled students frequently after age 18 or 19. Since the enactment of that segment, she said more than 2.5 million more young adults, including many students, now have health insurance coverage.
Junior Amanda Branch said she enjoys the fact that she can stay on her parents’ family plan for a while longer.
“I’m happy I can stay on my parent’s plan for a longer amount of time. Worrying about health insurance right after college would be difficult,” Branch said. “I’m excited that the new plan gives me more time to get on my feet.”
McDermott said the no annual limits on essential health benefits section of the legislation will be helpful for St. Thomas’ Health Services.
“The UST-sponsored health insurance plan has a $2 million maximum this year and will increase to unlimited next year to be fully compliant with the Health Care Reform Law,” McDermott said.
Aside from the benefits the Affordable Care Act provides, McDermott said Health Services has made arrangements with Aetna Student Health to eliminate co-pays as well.
“Unlike community clinics, when a student is seen in follow up at Health Services for the same episodic illness, the follow up visits are professional courtesy,” McDermott said. “Our goal is to help students return to health and continue on their academic path as quickly as possible.”
Junior Nyajal Dup said the new copay policy will make her more willing to visit Health Services.
“I think this new ‘no co-pay’ factor is a great feature. For example, if I’m feeling sick but don’t want to pay money to see the doctor … I don’t have to worry about spending money. I can get the help I need and continue on with life faster,” Dup said.
Even though the Affordable Care Act seems to help colleges’ health services programs, junior Ryan Niezgocki said the act isn’t “going far enough.”
“I think its implementation has been absolutely horrible, but I like its intent. I think that everyone is entitled to quality health care, so I like that it makes a step in that direction,” Niezgocki said. “Personally, I would prefer a single-payer system similar to many European countries.”
Branch said she would like to open her own business one day and thinks that the Affordable Care Act’s business policies might hold back her company’s success. The act mandates companies with over 50 employees must provide their employees health insurance.
“With the new act, I’m worried my business might not go as far as I want. Health care is expensive, and even though 50 seems like a small amount of people to pay for … health care adds up,” Branch said.
McDermott said even though the Affordable Care Act has improved St. Thomas’ Health Services, the organization’s main goal is to constantly keep improving.
“We will continue to negotiate with health insurance companies to do all we can to keep the cost of exceptional health care affordable for our students,” McDermott said.
Alison Bengtson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.