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Typically uninsured youth can stay on parents’ health insurance plans for longer under Affordable Care Act

By Erin Donnelly and Antonio Gonzalez

July 1, 2012 11:30 p.m.

College graduates who might have lost their health insurance after graduation will continue to have the option to stay on their parents’ insurance programs until they are 26, after the nation’s highest court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last Thursday.

The act, signed into law in 2010 and commonly known as Obamacare, makes health insurance mandatory for all Americans and requires that children be included on their parents’ medical insurance until they are 26 years old, among other provisions.

Since it was enacted, the legislation has received heavy backlash from Republicans who claim the federal government has overstepped its boundaries by mandating the purchase of health care.

But their opposition was suppressed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of the act. The court stated that it is constitutional for the federal government to require all citizens to obtain health insurance. Those who do not obtain the proper insurance will pay a fine of $695 per person or $2,085 per family.

Young people, including students and college graduates, are specifically affected by the act because they are typically uninsured, said Dr. Dylan Roby, a professor of health services at the UCLA School of Public Health.

Many students would previously be dropped from their parents’ health insurance plan when they lost their student status, usually at the age of 21 or 22, said Shana Alex Lavarreda, the director of health insurance studies at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. With the act, individuals can stay on their parents’ employer health care plans up until the age of 26, regardless of their enrollment status.

The new conditions of the act allow up to 2.5 million young adults, including 196,000 Californians, to remain covered longer than insurers typically provide for, according to the Obama administration

The University of California is currently reviewing the Supreme Court’s recent decision, according to a statement from the UC Office of the President.

The University of California Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP, is exempt from the Affordable Care Act, said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein. But the UC system plans on implementing the law anyway ““ a process that began when the law was first signed two years ago, she said.

Several of the more minor provisions in the act are already in practice at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, said John Bollard, chief of administrative services at the center. For instance, preventative care like immunizations have no out-of-pocket expenses and there is no annual cap on pharmacy costs.

The Ashe Center has not yet eliminated the lifetime insurance maximum that puts a limit on how much an insurance company can pay for a customer in his or her lifetime, which the act requires, but is taking steps to get rid of the current $600,000 maximum, he said.

Victoria Wilken, a second-year psychobiology student, is on the UC SHIP plan. Wilken said she does not support the health care act because it forces her and her parents to buy health insurance, something her family has not done in the past.

“People should be able to choose whether or not they want insurance,” she said. “If I wanted health insurance I’ll just figure it out.”

Thursday’s ruling was not a complete win for the Obama administration, however.

The Supreme Court struck down a portion of the act that would expand Medicaid, a government-subsidized health insurance plan for people who need financial assistance, and ruled that the provision violates states’ rights.

With the ruling against the Medicaid expansion, the federal government no longer has the ability to revoke federal funding from states if they fail to expand their Medicaid programs, Roby said.

Now that the country’s highest court has ruled on the issue, Obama said the government will continue to implement and improve portions of the health care act, which will go in effect in 2014.

House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stated in a press conference Thursday that Republican lawmakers will continue to fight against the health care act. He tweeted that the House will vote to fully repeal the act on July 11.

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Erin Donnelly
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