By Jacqueline Stoughton
Recently, the news has been all about the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The positive and negative effects that Obamacare will have on not only the insurance companies but on the individuals themselves seem to get buried in the many personal opinions regarding the health care reform. Students at Central Connecticut State University are wondering, what type of student health care does the university offer them, and how does Obamacare affect it?
CCSU, along with all CSU schools, offer their students a health plan with Aetna insurance. All students who are interested in going through the university for health care must either be a full time or part time student in order to enroll and are able to enroll their dependents as well. As of right now, a student health plan with Aetna insurance has a maximum benefit of $500,000 per condition per policy year and a pharmacy maximum of $500,000 per policy year.
Potential users of this insurance cannot be denied due to a pre-existing condition and the plan does include an extension of benefits. Students can continue to utilize the Aetna student health plan as long as they’re an enrolled student at any of the CSU schools.
“There’s Obamacare with a smile and Obamacare with fist-shaking anger; I use it with a smile,” said Dr. Christopher Diamond, M.D. at the CCSU Health Services offices. “I think the Affordable Care Act is a great step forward. The people who are opposed to it are doing a really masterful job of undermining it, as opposed to the people who are in favor of it who are doing a terrible job of promoting it.”
“I support the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare,” said Bobby Berriault, CCSU SGA Student Senator. “President Obama believes that every American has the right to have access to basic health care coverage at an affordable price. Health care is a right, not just a privilege. I stand strongly in support of the President’s health care law.”
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is presented as a very liberal and socialist concept, but is anything but in reality. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies had the leverage to reject anyone due to preexisting conditions. But now the act states that one cannot be rejected due to circumstances such as preexisting conditions, which is a big change, said Diamond.
One of the major issues people have with the Affordable Care Act is that it requires people to get health insurance. The debate being that everyone should have the right to decide whether or not they want to be insured.
“The idea that we’re forced to do something that some people think is an individual decision, other people say it’s outside the scope of what the federal government can do,” said Diamond. “In particular, the argument was people who chose to not do it would get a penalty. The Supreme Court ruled on this stating that they can do it, as long as the penalty is considered a tax. It’s a complicated thing, but it’s constitutional law.”
Part of the decision to imply a penalty tax was due to the fact that health insurance was becoming an evident financial burden on both those who were insured and those who weren’t. According to a report by CNBC, health costs and unpaid medical bills are the top cause of bankruptcy in the United States.
“Lets say you don’t want to get health insurance, you still could get into a car accident, injured, and end up in the hospital. You can’t pay, so who does? Everyone else who can and who has health insurance,” said Diamond. “The cost of the system for those who weren’t insured was huge because they weren’t paying into the system in order to pay for it.”
Although this law is far from perfect, Berriault says that in the end, the new Affordable Care Act law will ultimately end up positively benefiting all American citizens for the long run.
“The law eliminates the option for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage based on pre existing conditions, it allows young adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents plan, and it mandates that every American has some form of health insurance,” said Berriault. “The law fully goes into effect next year, so whenever uninsured Americans do end up going to the hospital, the money to cover their expenses will come from the pool of money generated from the revenue of fines collected from uninsured Americans instead of those of us who are insured. This will in effect lower prices for everyone who has health insurance and will reverse the decades long trend of rising health care costs which few Americans can really afford in the first place.”
Student health care plans are essentially a contract between the insurance company and the college. The college then works as an agent to insure the students, describes Diamond. “My first year when I came here the coverage for a particular health problem was a maximum of $2500. This was a very limited plan.”
The Affordable Care Act states that plans need to meet a certain standard of maximum coverage. For Aetna, it started out with maximum coverage of $100,000, it’s now at $500,000, with plans to go up again to $2 million, and by next year the aggregate of the student health plan will be unlimited; this also covers those who have mental health needs.
“Once Obamacare kicked in, our student health plan became better and better,” said Diamond. The coverage became better in the sense that Aetna now has to cover more of the medical problems and expensive medications that may burden students. Also, certain health exams are now required to be covered.
“For a moderate increase in our fees that students have to pay to get that health plan you suddenly could get an annual physical, you could get appropriate testing, things that wouldn’t have been paid for before,” said Diamond. “We went from having a cruddy plan that may have covered you if you had a bad injury, to a very effective good plan.”
The student health insurance must now provide the preventative services and meet certain criteria that are specified under the Affordable Care Act. Student health plans are considered to be stand-alone policies. Meaning, they don’t have to go into either the business or individual marketplaces of insurance.
“Student health plans are covered by the Affordable Care Act. Insurance plans are considered individual coverage under federal law, but may be treated as blanket or group coverage under state law,” said Aetna insurance in a statement to Dr. Diamond of CCSU Health Services.
Students entering any of the CSU schools will automatically be put on the school health plan, this could be prevented only if the student takes action to waive it and prove they have their own health insurance, explains Diamond.
“Regardless if you pay for the student plan or have your own plan, every student has a secondary accident plan that’s provided by Aetna for $50,000,” said Diamond. “If your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of an accident, you can submit to Aetna’s accidental plan.”
Diamond says he hopes to organize workshops for students to educate those who are impending graduation on what it means when you leave here, how to find their own health insurance that works best for them, and how to navigate the system.
“I suggest every student look on their health insurance website and the Aetna student health insurance website to track their benefits,” he said.
“Right now, we have a plan that I feel pretty good about; I think that because of the Affordable Care Act I feel good about the number of students that are now covered under their parents plan and I feel good about the students that are covered under our Aetna student health plan because it does have pretty good coverage and overall I’m very pleased with it,” said Diamond. “I always think of it as a great example of being one of benefits of coming to CCSU, we have a really great insurance plan that’s low cost.”