For students in search of a new health insurance program, recently announced federal guidelines may provide them with new options come 2014.
In a historic decision, the Obama administration gave states increased discretion in setting health care coverage levels for regulated marketplaces and determining benefit programs as outlined in the Affordable Care Act passed last March, which goes into effect in 2014, and could provide increased opportunities for those seeking health care insurance.
Since the action was announced on Dec. 16, state governments around the nation have been determining how to best implement the policy. In Michigan, Republican members of the state House of Representatives stopped a bill supported by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder that would authorize the state to use $9.8 million of federal funds to establish a health care exchange.
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said Republicans are making the process difficult.
“My Republican House colleagues are not willing to include (the spending provision) in the bill,” Irwin said. “They aren’t interested in carrying through Obamacare.”
The proposed plan aims to create a more accessible form of health insurance for those who cannot afford private insurance, Irwin said.
If implemented, the bill would allow for several exchanges with varying levels of health coverage. The most extensive plans would cover up to 60 to 90 percent of patients’ medical costs.
The health care bill could provide a variety of opportunities for the 5 percent of University undergraduate students and 10 percent of University graduate students who are currently uninsured, according to Robert Winfield, the University’s chief health officer and director of UHS.
The University currently provides an insurance program for uninsured students based on age and need, but the new exchange program may prove to be more affordable for students, Winfield said.
“We don’t know what the bronze, silver, gold and platinum (levels of insurance) will look like for our state, but it may be less expensive for a student to buy a good quality policy — gold or platinum — than to purchase the policy now offered,” Winfield said.
Winfield added that the legislation is important for all uninsured citizens, not just uninsured University students.
“I believe that having as many people uninsured in our country as we have is not justifiable and anything we can do to address the problem of the uninsured and the underinsured is something I’m in favor of,” Winfield said.