Citizens without healthcare could face fines in 2014

Originally published in The Globe October 8, 2013

Virtually everyone in the United States will be required to have health coverage or pay a penalty beginning next year when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.

“If students have coverage, they have it. If they don’t, by law, they need to go on the [health insurance] exchange by Jan. 1, 2014 and get coverage,” said Natalie Rice, the assistant director of the Office of Human Resources in an interview Friday.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. According to the CBIZ brochure distributed to Point Park employees by the Office of Human Resources, under the Affordable Care Act, people who do not have health insurance by Jan. 1 will face a penalty of $95 or one percent of their family income. This will increase significantly in 2015 and again in 2016.

People with insurance from their job or family will most likely not face any changes. Those without can buy insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace or on their own outside of the marketplace. People enrolled in Medicare, Tricare, or Veterans healthcare will not have to change their coverage.

The Health Insurance Marketplace, which opened Oct. 1, 2013, is an online source to compare and buy private health insurance, but even those who receive their healthcare from their jobs or families, or buy their insurance privately outside of the Marketplace will be affected by these new laws.

According to the official White House website for the Affordable Care Act, under these laws “most young adults who can’t get coverage through their jobs can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.” Insurance companies cannot deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, cannot set a dollar limit on lifetime care and cannot drop coverage. They will also be required to justify rate increases and spend 80 percent of premiums on medical care.

Ashleigh Brundage, a senior criminal justice major, was grateful she can now remain on her mother’s insurance after college.

“I’m a broke college student, and I want to go to law school,” said Brudage in an interview Thursday. “I need to pay off my student loans instead of worrying about my healthcare.”

President of the Point Park College Republicans Joe Rittenhouse, a senior acting major and political science minor, said he sees this is a benefit, but that it only helps people in the short-term.

“Part of growing up is struggling, and there’s a huge issue with our generation, culturally, of being coddled and never leaving our parents’ houses,” said Rittenhouse in an interview Sunday.

According to Rice, the University offers insurance to staff and faculty, although they are not currently required to provide healthcare insurance to students with apprenticeships or those in the work-study program. As Point Park’s medical plan meets the standards for coverage, faculty and staff switching to insurance through the Marketplace may not be eligible for the tax credit, according to the exchange notice sent out by the Office of Human Resources.

Rittenhouse said he sees Obamacare as “admirable, but unrealistic.” He said people should be allowed to buy insurance across state lines, and not allowing them to do so destroys competition and drives up the price of healthcare.

“People in Pennsylvania can only buy plans from Pennsylvania,” he said. “If all of a sudden they could buy them out of Alaska, places like UPMC would have to knock their prices down. The market would fix it (high healthcare costs).”

The Affordable Care Act includes subsidies to ensure that everyone can afford healthcare; people whose personal or family’s income is below a certain level will get a tax credit based on their income. In many states, people below the poverty line will receive Medicaid; however, the discussion for this in Pennsylvania is ongoing, as Gov. Tom Corbett said he believes “reform is critical” and will not be accepting the “one size fits all” plan out of Washington, according to the website for his plan, Healthy Pennsylvania. This plan would include a monthly premium and require job training and job searching for beneficiaries under the age of 65.

“I personally know people who are very disabled, and they would have to decide whether to pay for healthcare insurance or food,” Brundage said. “With this, you don’t have to choose between paying for your healthcare and paying for your food. You can have both.”The Health Insurance Marketplace can be accessed at healthcare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596.

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