Health care bill extends student insurance coverage

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

Last month President Obama signed a bill on health care reform, possibly changing health care systems in America forever. Not only will the bill have an effect on South Dakota residents but also on SDSU’s student population, nursing majors and pre-medicine major.

“The bill was a beginning of change that needed to happen,” said Dr. Rick Holm of the Avera Brookings Medical Clinic. “Without it, the insurance industry would have collapsed.”

According to an article by the Associated Press, roughly one-third of people in their 20s are uninsured. With the new health care bill in action, young adults would be able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, even if they are married. Any grandchildren would not be covered, and if adult children have access to their own employer’s health care plan, they are no longer qualified to stay on their parents’ plan.

“This is a way to make available insurance for young people, so that they don’t have to wait until they get in a car accident or discover an illness,” said Holm. “It is an accessible option for students.”

Some students agree that being on their parents’ health care plan would be beneficial.

“Initially I was opposed to the bill,” said Kari Carlson, a senior biology and pre-physician’s assistant major. “But I will be going on to graduate school, so it will be nice to be on my parents’ plan.”

Another aspect of the bill is a broader umbrella of protection for Americans. With the new bill in place, health insurers would not be able to deny people coverage because of a pre-existing illness. Children born with illnesses would be covered, as well.

Not everyone is as in favor of the bill as Holm was. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., voted against the bill.

“I strongly believe health care reform must contain rising costs, increase quality and value and improve access,” she said in a prepared statement on March 21. “But the wrong kind of reform will leave our nation worse off.

“Unfortunately, this bill is too expensive,” Herseth Sandlin said. “It does not do enough now or in the future to contain costs or to lower insurance rates. And it is marred by special deals.”

In 2014, larger transformations to health insurers will take place. Insurers will be required to take on all applicants and will not be allowed to charge people who have illnesses more than healthy clients.

In addition, all Americans would be required to have health insurance of some kind. Those who do not have insurance would face fines from the IRS.

“I am pleased that reform has now become a reality for millions of Americans and that the stranglehold of skyrocketing premiums on family budgets will come to an end,” said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., disagreed with Sen. Johnson’s opinion in a prepared statement.

“(The March 21) action demonstrates that Pres. Obama and the Congressional Democrats think that their ideological agenda and perceived legacy are more important than the voice of the American people,” said Thune. “Their obsession to jam through a bill that will impact every single American family and small business without a single Republican vote redefines partisanship and shows that their agenda is out of touch with the majority of Americans.”

In addition, the bill will help close the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit. More than 30 percent of South Dakotans fall into this category. The “doughnut hole” refers to a gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan. The plan currently covers up to $2,700 per year in prescription drug payments, then stops.

The recipient’s coverage for drug costs does not continue again until it exceeds $6,100 annually, thus leaving the recipient responsible for paying all drug costs between $2,700 and $6,100.

“Medicare has been changing for years,” said Holm. “This is a way to help improve it.”