Repeal of Obamacare worries healthcare experts and U students

President-elect Donald Trump said repeatedly during his campaign that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act

by Olivia Johnson

As new federal policymakers gear up for the next year, some students and faculty members at the University of Minnesota worry about changes to healthcare laws.

During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump said he would focus on repealing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Some University experts and students fear the changes could leave many young adults uninsured.

“Personally, I like the Affordable Care Act,” said sociology and comparative literature junior Monica Bruno, who is currently on her parents’ health insurance plan. “I feel that it’s very important because it takes a while to find a job … after graduation.”

Jean Abraham, a professor in the School of Public Health, studies the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010 and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012. Abraham said she is uncertain about its future.

“Clearly the goal of the ACA was to expand coverage to those who were uninsured by making coverage more affordable and accessible,” Abraham said.

Pieces of the law — such as the young adult provision, state subsidies and individual mandates requiring health insurance — could disappear, Abraham said.

“Young adults have the highest rate of uninsurance,” she said. “This is a group that benefitted a lot from the expansion of dependent coverage eligibility.”

Assuming a full repeal occurs, Abraham said new graduates should check their eligibility for public programs, find jobs that offer benefits or start looking at buying an individual plan.

“For the individual market, there would not be subsidies available to offset the cost of insurance premiums for lower-income individuals,” she said.

Women may be charged more than men for their health insurance, and insurers could require those with preexisting medical conditions to pay more or deny them coverage outright, Abraham said.

“It’s making lots of us nervous because we can’t easily predict what the alternative will be,” she said, though it’s very likely that things will change with new policymakers.

She said the young adult provision — which Trump has indicated he likes — gives security to young people as they look for places to live and work.

Bruno said she would be afraid if the law was repealed. And she said if her first job offered health insurance, she doubts the coverage would be as good as her parents’ plan.

MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole said she thinks a repeal of the act would take away the progress Minnesota has made in insuring its residents.

“The ACA put in tons of protections for everyone, including younger folks who can stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26,” O’Toole said. “That is a really important component of it, and one that …could have a serious impact if repealed.”

Other aspects of the ACA offer protection against gender discrimination and limit what insurance companies can consider when setting premiums, she said.

“That is really huge for every age group,” she said.

O’Toole said MNsure serves about 250,000 Minnesota residents on the individual market. She added that most customers are part-time workers who are ineligible for insurance through their employers or are self-employed, early retirees or recent college graduates.

“In Minnesota, since the ACA was passed and it was implemented here, we’ve cut our uninsurance rate in half,” she said.

Nearly 96 percent of the state is insured, O’Toole said, adding that 50 million people are newly insured.

“I’m not saying that the ACA is perfect,” O’Toole said. “We have the lowest uninsured rate in state history and one of the lowest in the country. You have to take a really critical eye before you start repealing the major components of the ACA.”