With President Barack Obama’s signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, along with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, the method in which Americans receive and control their health care has been dramatically overhauled and the distribution and repayment of student loans has also been altered severely. Although most of the effects won’t take place until 2014, there is still a lot of information you should be aware of. Hopefully, this will help answer some immediate questions.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE BILL DO?
The health care bill extends coverage to 95 percent of the American public while subsequently eliminating or altering many provisions such as denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. Among other significant changes is the creation of health care exchanges where citizens can compare multiple plans, the subsidization of insurance premiums for qualified individuals and families, subsidies for families of four or more with an annual income of $88,000 or less, allowing children to remain on their parents’ plan until they are 26, companies with 50 or more full-time employees being required to cover their workers’ insurance, and citizens being required to have insurance policies of their own. Most of these changes won’t take place until 2014. It is also projected to reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion over the next decade and $1.2 trillion in the next.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT ME RIGHT NOW?
Beginning in September, children and young adults can remain on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday; however, if you are a full-time employee, then your company’s health insurance would supersede your parent’s policy. Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage effective immediately. Insurers will be prohibited from dropping their policyholders and will be restricted in their enforcement of annual spending caps and will be completely prohibited by 2014. Starting in June, adults with pre-existing conditions can qualify for a temporary high-risk pool before the provisions kick in 2014.
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT INSURANCE?
Beginning in 2014, every American citizen will be required to have their own insurance policy. Although many Americans will be covered by their employers, the group that will likely be the most affected by this will be young adults. The first fine would be $95 and the maximum fine would be capped at $695, which is roughly the cost of a minimum insurance policy to begin with. Financial aid packages beginning in 2014 may have to take into account additional funds to cover the insurance of their students.
IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY OF THE BILL BEING TURNED OVER?
It’s very unlikely. In Congress, it would require a two-thirds vote to repeal the bill; so even if the Republicans were to win back the Senate and the House this winter, they would still be short by several votes. Through the court system, Texas is among fourteen states that filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed bill, in particular the individual mandate requiring all citizens to have health insurance. Although the likelihood of the lawsuit reaching beyond appeals is doubtful, federal law would still supersede state law. However, when it comes to the medical field, state law has won out at times. For example, several states prescribe medical marijuana even though it’s technically outlawed by the federal government. As well, Idaho and Virginia have already passed state bills prohibiting the individual mandate policy.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO STUDENT LOANS?
The provisions are similar to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that was passed by the House in September, with some minor changes. The bill saves $68 billion, of which will be used to increase the Pell Grant program, assist Medicare, and create additional funding for community colleges and minority schools. It ends the process of the federal government giving out subsidies to banks to give out student loans, effectively ending the Federal Family Education Loan Program beginning July 1st. As a result, all loans will be directly from the Department of Education. Beginning in 2014, those who qualify can cap their loan repayment each month at 10 percent of their discretionary income and their loans will be forgiven after 20 years.
SO HOW DOES THIS AFFECT ME NOW?
Since most of the provisions will not take place until 2014, it won’t affect the current student body except for the Class of 2014 and future graduate students. The most immediate change will be the dismantling of the Federal Family Education Loan Program and having to go directly through the Department of Education, as well as it being easier for parents to qualify for the Federal PLUS Loans.