It might sound strange, but something major and historic took place on October 1st, and it wasn’t just the government shutdown. It was actually the roll out of the nation’s first health care law, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) designed to make sure every American has health insurance (whether or not it actually does that is an entirely different debate).
It’s been in the headlines a lot lately, and ironically, it took the threat of not funding it (which caused the shutdown) for most Americans to even pay attention to it. The act specifically aims to provide 27 million Americans with health insurance over the next decade, and young adults are absolutely critical to those efforts. So, now that there are big changes coming to the U.S. health care system, let’s take a look at why young people are so important to its success and how the law directly affects you, the recent grad.
So, Only People That Voted For Obama Get Covered?
Not exactly, though there is a lot of misinformation out there on both sides. First, let’s define what the Affordable Care Act actually is. The ACA was signed into law in March 2010 with the goal of making preventative health care more accessible and affordable for more Americans. Parts of the law have already taken effect (like the ability to stay on a parent’s health insurance until age 26), and many more will be rolled out in the next few years.
October 1, 2013 marked the beginning of the first open enrollment period (for the year 2014), which will end on March 31, 2014. So, anyone that enrolls during this time will be covered as early as January 1, 2014. And no, it doesn’t matter who you voted for.
To see a more detailed breakdown of what the ACA does and doesn’t do, you can head on over to the Department of Health and Human Services to see a lot of info on the law. That is, if the site is up.
But What Does It Mean For Me?
- Certain preventative care procedures, such as some immunizations and screenings for STIs and diabetes, will now be free of charge (and even free of copays) for any plan offered through the marketplaces and many other plans outside of the marketplaces.
- Young adults (both married and unmarried) can remain on a parent’s plan up until the age of 26.
- Birth control of all types will now be available without a copay. Now there is no excuse for not practicing safe sex.
- It may be more difficult to acquire low-premium, high-deductible plans (aka “emergency only” or “catastrophic coverage” plans) under the ACA. This is because the Obama administration and health insurance companies are counting on more young people to enroll in new coverage to balance out increased insurance company costs in the face of new consumer protections. Whether or not the premium hikes will cause fewer young adults to enroll in any plan is still under debate.
- You cannot be denied coverage even if you have a preexisting condition.
- Young women can’t be charged more than young men. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in many states. But under the new law, this practice will be illegal.
- If your state passed the Medicaid expansion, then you might qualify for Medicaid, which helps low-wage workers (including underpaid young people) obtain health insurance coverage.
The debate over Obamacare has been raging since the law’s inception and it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. There are good benefits to be sure, but that doesn’t mean the law is without its flaws and criticisms. That’s why it’s important to get ALL SIDES of the argument before deciding what’s best for you. Define what it means on your own terms before anyone else does. Only YOU can make the right choice for your lifestyle.