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Sunday, April 14, 2024

New healthcare laws affect UC Davis students, employees

Covered California, enacted on Oct. 1, is the state of California’s version of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA, also known as ObamaCare, will affect the lives of every individual in the United States, but its effects are immediately pertinent regarding UC Davis students and employees.

According to the fact sheet on the Covered CA website, Covered CA is the place for Californians to purchase health insurance under the ACA and can also inform CA residents of their eligibility for Medi-Cal.

Immediate effects

Many UC Davis students, community members and laypeople are unaware of the specifics of Covered CA or ObamaCare.

“I honestly have no idea what ObamaCare is … I only heard bits and pieces of it, and unfortunately forgot even those tiny bits,” said Young Ha Suh, a UC Davis third-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology international student, in an email.

The ACA was passed under the Obama administration as a new form of universal health care.This would require every citizen to have health insurance and because of this, it does not discriminate against citizens who would normally be denied health insurance. The ACA includes clauses about health care reform, re-allocating government funds to support more affordable health care, improving the quality of health care and controlling its ridiculously high costs.

“The ACA provides for free preventative services, such as annual physical exams, immunizations and contraceptive services. This has already helped students to obtain affordable, time-sensitive health services most important to their wellness,” said Dr. Michelle Famula, UC Davis executive director for health and wellness in an email.

According to the UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services Insurance Services department, students can now access services to complete vaccination series, obtain long acting contraceptive methods (like IUDs and Nexplanon), obtain flu shots and receive annual follow up assessments of chronic illness management for conditions such as asthma, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

Situational issues

In the Davis community and UC Davis system, students and employees may face health insurance-related life changes, depending on current situations.

“It’s going to happen regardless, but we can make it more or less difficult by choosing to not fight about it,” said a UC Davis Medical Center (UCDMC) employee who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s going to be a tsunami of change, with lots of kinks to be worked out.”

ObamaCare would indirectly affect insurance holders by (ideally) decreasing the costs of healthcare and hospital visits. Hospital bills are so expensive without insurance because there are many people who cannot pay for health care, so the cost increases tenfold for those who have coverage.

“I support the goal of providing quality healthcare to people who do not have access,” said another UC Davis employee who wished to remain anonymous, in an email. “I am not convinced, however, that the ACA [Affordable Care Act] will be able to effectively increase access and control costs, but I hope I am wrong.”

Effects on students, employees

The UC Davis employees have five readily-available health insurance options, as well as the option to have their own instead and according to the UCDMC employee, the UCDMC employees have full health benefits.

UC Davis students and employees with insurance would not be directly affected by ObamaCare because they would not be legally required to partake in it; it would be there only as an option.

“Financial impact of the ACA will vary from student to student. All registered students in the UC system have been required to carry health insurance since 2000. For some, the ACA will have no impact as they were previously eligible for coverage on their parents’ plans … and this has not changed for them,” Famula said.

However, students and employees that do not currently have insurance would be required by law to have this affordable health insurance.

“ObamaCare has already helped me in that it allows me to stay on my parents’ employer-based health care until I am 26,” said Renee Babcock, a fourth-year anthropology student. “It will ensure that I have health care after I graduate and am trying to get a job or move to a new city.”

There are many monetary issues that college students face, and if the ACA is able to curb healthcare costs, it would greatly relieve this financial stress.

UC SHIP

However, many UC students have the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), and these students would not be directly affected by Covered California.

“For others [students], the ACA provides them the opportunity to receive subsidies to help pay for the cost of health insurance coverage or enables them to [buy] higher-benefit plans at equal or reduced cost through the state exchanges. For most, many of the covered wellness services reduce their out of pocket costs for care specifically beneficial to this age group,” Famula said.

There is no way to know for sure how the new system will juggle all of these different situations, whether they be on the UC SHIP, work-related health insurance coverage, independent insurance, under parental insurance or without insurance.

“Like any huge, national undertaking designed to fundamentally overhaul our approach to delivering a universal resource for all Americans, this effort will require the cooperation and collaboration of federal, state and local governments and the goodwill of all to work to insure a successful implementation,” Famula said.

SHANNON SMITH can be reached at city@theaggie.org. 

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