North Texas Daily

Affordable Care Act deadline approaches

Affordable Care Act deadline approaches

Affordable Care Act deadline approaches
March 25
01:48 2014

Matt Wood // Staff Writer and Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

Next Monday, more than 48 million uninsured Americans will be required to have health benefits or face a tax penalty in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Once this deadline passes, enrollment will be closed and will not reopen until Nov. 15 of this year, according to healthcare.gov.

A penalty of the greater amount between $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income will be levied on U.S. citizens who are uninsured or have coverage that does not meet ACA standards. The taxable income penalty cannot exceed $2,085, according to the American Public Health Association.

About 3.3 million people have signed up for health insurance through the healthcare marketplace as of Feb. 12.

Though UNT students under age 26 will be largely unaffected because they can remain on their parents’ health insurance, 23 percent of UNT students are uncovered and subject to the penalty.

History of the ACA

The ACA was passed March 23, 2010 in fulfillment of part of President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Kerry Stanhope, assistant director of outreach for the Health and Wellness Center, said the act is designed to increase opportunities for citizens to get healthcare.

He also said it is intended to provide a framework for what health insurance policies must provide to U.S. citizens by creating the essential minimum coverage guidelines.

One key component of the act is the removal of preexisting conditions excluding people from receiving coverage.

“If you knew you had Type 1 Diabetes and you switched to a new insurance provider, they could deny you,” said Teresa McKinney, vice president of student affairs. “Now they can no longer do that.”

UNT Health and Wellness Center

About one in four UNT students is not covered by insurance, according to a Health and Wellness Center survey in Fall 2012. This doesn’t include those whose healthcare plans did not meet the new standards of the ACA and who must change plans to abide by new guidelines.

“Some people might have been notified that their current insurance plan is no longer being offered, so they might have to select a different option that can affect their costs,” said Kerry Stanhope, assistant director of outreach for the UNT Health and Wellness Center.

About 82 percent of UNT students are under age 26 and would be covered by their parents’ insurance plans under the ACA guidelines.

For those who are uninsured or underinsured, UNT offers a student healthcare plan at lower premiums. The insurance offered by the university fulfills ACA guidelines, making it an option for students older than 26.

“Just like any other insurance policy, we had to make sure our policy was meeting the minimum requirements according to the new healthcare regulations,” Stanhope said.

Stanhope said the university-endorsed plan had to be updated to meet ACA standards, and now provides full coverage for immunizations instead of requiring co-pay. The annual cost for the plan last year was $1,555.

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Backlash

The act’s passage was chaotic. Several stories emerged of insurance companies no longer offering certain plans and premiums for individuals increased in price. One such story comes from anthropology senior Matt Malone.

“The second it got passed, I got a letter saying on my next birthday I would be dropped,” he said.

Malone had been paying $80 per month to Aetna for insurance. He went uninsured for two years before an agency called and put him on a plan paying twice as much per month.

For Malone, the law created uncertainty more than reassurance. He said he had three doctor appointments in the week leading up to his birthday, after which they asked him to schedule his next appointment.

“You don’t understand,” he told the doctors. “I’m losing my insurance. This is all you’re going to see of me.”

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Administration targets youth

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said out of 5 million uninsured Texas residents, 2 million of them are young people.

Sebelius visited Texas Woman’s University March 21 to speak at an NAACP event. She said young people were the major demographic the Obama administration was trying to reach out to, with a campaign that draws on several celebrities and celebrity mothers.

She said young people are the least insured and the most at-risk for sudden expenses because they think they’re invincible. A broken arm caused by a drunken fall or horseplay, she said as an example, costs an average of $7,000.

Sebelius explained the individual mandate as well, saying if someone uninsured has to have a broken arm treated in an emergency room, the rest of the country ends up footing the bill anyway.

“You’ll come through the emergency room and somebody else will pay for that,” she said. “This is a way of making sure you’re either covered or contributing to the larger pool.”

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All graphics by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor 

 

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