Possible ACA repeal leads to questions, concerns amongst Edinboro community
Whether or not Donald Trump and his new presidential administration should repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which former President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010, is a commonly debated topic in the politically charged battleground that is the United States. The plan was first introduced under the Obama administration in 2009, when Democrats in the House of Representatives put forward a 1,000-page comprehensive plan that would come to be known as the ACA, or "Obamacare."
Obamacare, an Abridged History
In November 2009, the House voted 220-215 in favor of the ACA with 39 Democrats and 176 Republicans voting against it. A month later, the Senate passed the bill with a 60-39 vote where all Democrats supported the bill and all Republicans disputed it. At the time, Obama and his administration believed that under the ACA over 30 million additional Americans would be provided health coverage. The program, a very hot button issue at the time, was set to cost $871 billion over the course of 10 years.
“We are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people,” said Obama following the Senate vote in 2009. In August 2009, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts passed away, leaving a vacant seat in the Senate, taken over by Republican Senator Scott Brown in January 2010. Following Brown’s election, the Senate no longer had the 60-seat Senate super-majority, preventing Republicans from filibustering the bill. Additionally, because the Senate Democrats did not have a 60th vote in favor of the ACA, they used the legislative budget reconciliation, which prevented anyone from being able to filibuster and limited any debate of the subject to only 24 hours. After the budget reconciliation, the Senate’s version of the ACA was approved in a House vote of 219-212 and Obama signed the ACA into law.
Student Insurance Coverage and ACA
By ACA law, if a student is enrolled in a university-provided health care plan (Edinboro's options are detailed here, which focus on international students), they may be within the minimum coverage requirements of ACA and may avoid having to pay any fines as a result of that coverage. If a student is not covered under their parents' insurance or a university plan, they can apply for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This application process will let the student know which programs they qualify for, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) or savings based on income.
Before Obamacare — according to a 2008 study performed by the United States Government Accountability Office, in their report to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — 22 percent of four-year public universities, 62 percent of four-year private universities and 3 percent of two-year universities required all full-time students to have some form of health insurance. The report also states that in 2006, 67 percent of students aged 18-23 were insured in group market plans through their employer, 20 percent were uninsured, 7 percent held individual market group plans, and 6 percent were insured through public health insurance programs. An article published by the Commonwealth Fund states the percentage of uninsured adults aged 19-34 dropped from 28 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2016. Without coverage, students risk having to pay a fine of either 2.5 percent of their household income or $695, whichever of the two is higher, according to healthcare.gov.
Community Survey Analysis
Edinboro community members recently participated in an online survey (nearly 200 subjects) regarding their views on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reform. Over half of those surveyed supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (54 percent); though the majority also claimed they were not covered by it (60 percent).
Half the respondents said they were well informed regarding the ACA, while the other half said they had heard of it but do not know much else about it. A common concern expressed among the results is that people will concentrate more on their own party affiliation rather than what the consequences and problems of healthcare are. Instead of trying to amend the ACA’s flaws or work together on a suitable alternative, it is said to be likely this will become — as it has already been — a Republican vs. Democrat debate.
Another common question regarding healthcare reform is the idea of free universal healthcare and why it seems to be an issue. "Being that we are a 'first world nation,' we are more than capable of providing healthcare to all people in our country, therefore I feel we are obligated and responsible to do so," said one anonymous survey responder.
As of last year, over 500 countries have legislation mandating universal healthcare, including Canada and Australia. "When did healthcare become a privilege? All Americans are entitled to it," said another in their response.
Although political stances differ, there was one fairly common consensus among the results: What will replace the affordable care act if and when it is repealed? While there have not been any legislative actions, one proposal from the Republican Party is the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act (CARE). The new plan would keep the requirement for guaranteed renewal of healthcare coverage, but phase out other aspects, such as "unnecessary tests and lawsuits" and child coverage. Under the ACA, children are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. This provision could be phased out with any repeal or repair of the act, although the GOP plan is said to retain this coverage during the transition. As the majority of Edinboro University undergrads fall in the 18-24 age range, this would be something that would directly affect college students. Out of the uncertainty surrounding healthcare coverage, it is likely Americans won’t be seeing universal healthcare any time in the near future, though all options remain open as the repeal process unfolds.
EdinboroNow Examines is a collaboration between The Spectator, Edinboro Television and WFSE Radio staffers.