The United States is playing a delicate balancing game. On the brink of a dangerous fiscal cliff that could remove billions of dollars from the economy and send unemployment soaring, the federal government must also monitor and enforce the universal healthcare program, the likes of which have never been implemented in the United States.
“It’s got a challenge ahead of it,” said Richard Kinney, Ph.D., a political science professor.
The opposition for the reform is derived from the controversial policies which are taking the place of the previous policies. As of November 2012, approximately 48 percent of Americans still opposed the healthcare bill while only 42 percent approved.
“One of its biggest challenges will be dealing with this opposition,” Kinney said.
Health care reform is a reformation rather than an entire reconstruction, so the basic health care structure is going to remain intact. However, a multitude of the policies within that structure are going to change drastically.
Both political parties in the United States concede the chaotic and expensive healthcare system in the United States prior to 2010 was in desperate need of reform. Each year, healthcare expenditures exceeded $2 trillion, according to the federal government’s National Health Statistics Group. Additionally, over 16 percent of the population was uninsured in 2009, totaling almost 50 million Americans.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as ObamaCare, passed through Congress in early 2010 and was validated by the Supreme Court in June 2012. It became the official medium for reform as soon as President Barack Obama was re-elected to office in November. The purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to reduce exorbitant health care expenditures and to ensure coverage for the majority of Americans.
Before 2010, employed individuals whose jobs offered benefits could attain health insurance through an employer.
Insurance was also available for private purchase for individuals or families.
Elderly people and people with mental illnesses could access health insurance through Medicare, while low-income individuals (who fit into designated eligibility categories) could access insurance through Medicaid. This included coverage for children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.
Insurance could be denied to individuals based on preexisting conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Premiums, or the amount paid for the insurance coverage, could vary based on a number of factors, including age, health status, and the location in which the
Co-pay is the flat amount a person pays every time he or she has to get medication or see a doctor. A deductible is the amount a person has to pay in order for insurers to help pay for the medical expenses.
While the Affordable Care Act will retain some of these policies, it will change a majority of them over the course of the next two years.
According to a 2003 mandate by the Idaho State Board of Education, all full time, full-fee paying students are required to have the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) or an adequate alternative insurance plan.
A student without insurance will be given insurance, and the fees will be added to his or her tuition. Students with an adequate alternative insurance generally receive it through their parents or legal guardians.
Because of this access to insurance, many young adults feel as though the Affordable Care Act will affect the older generations much more than the younger. However, the healthcare reform is more collaborative than that.
“Health care, to me, seems very relevant to all of our generations,” Kinney said.
Currently, the Affordable Care Act is rolling into its implementation; it is supposed to be completely functional by 2014. If the health care reform lasts through future political administrations, gains more public approval, and proves to be economically sustainable, the current generation of college-aged students will invest money into a healthcare system to ensure medical assistance in their old age.
If it cannot sustain itself or is repealed, college-aged students will be the generation to tackle the question of health care reform. However, all that can be done at this point is to speculate about the possible outcomes for the Affordable Care Act.
“As the law begins to get implemented, the problems may change (and) the priorities may change. We are faced with an uncertain picture of the future,” Kinney said.