Some UMN health officials worried over impact of potential Obamacare repeal

Most University of Minnesota undergraduates are required to have health insurance.

Nurse Jody Geinger speaks on the phone at the new Boynton Health Services mental health clinic. The clinic, located on the St. Paul campus, offers services in mental health, nutrition, physical therapy and primary care.

Daily File Photo

Nurse Jody Geinger speaks on the phone at the new Boynton Health Services mental health clinic. The clinic, located on the St. Paul campus, offers services in mental health, nutrition, physical therapy and primary care.

Olivia Johnson

With rumblings that the Affordable Care Act could be disbanded, some health care professionals are worried about the potential impact on University of Minnesota students.

If the entire act is thrown out, most students would have to purchase their own healthcare due to a University of Minnesota requirement that students be insured, though the future status of the ACA is uncertain.

Carl Anderson, Boynton Health Service’s director and chief medical officer, said President Donald Trump’s administration could repeal and replace the act, repeal it and not replace it, only replace portions of it, or do nothing.

“The problem is, with those four scenarios and no clear direction, we have no idea what the impact is going to be on anyone,” Anderson said. “Nobody has said for sure what they’re going to do.”

Heidi Johng, a medical and public health graduate student, expressed uncertainty in what the Republican Party, at the federal level, would do with the act, and said a repeal would be detrimental because one of the current proposed plans leaves out marginalized populations.

The act allows students to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26, and in Minnesota, the uninsured rate went from 8.8 percent to 4.3 percent after it was enacted.

“We are in a very privileged position, even if we are over 26 years old,” she said of the impact on University students. “The only thing that I see happening is that we would be limited in our options.”

Anderson said about 25 percent of students are covered by the Student Health Benefit Plan, 20 percent are covered by the Graduate Assistant Health Plan and the rest are under third-party commercial insurance or public-funded healthcare like Medicare and Medicaid.

Dane Thompson, a medical and MBA student, said the act’s goal was to stabilize the individual healthcare market and provide access to people who had preexisting medical conditions.

He said a repeal would hurt many people in the country, despite the fact that students are offered healthcare through the University. Families of students who are covered by the ACA would be impacted more.

“There’s a lot of people with chronic medical conditions that won’t be able to find insurance at all if the act was repealed,” Thompson said.

A total repeal would also impact recent graduates who wouldn’t have the safety of their parents’ plan if they didn’t immediately find a job with insurance benefits, said Lynn Blewett, a health policy professor in the University’s School of Public Health.

“Usually if you’re working for retail or a small employer, you might not have access to employer-sponsored coverage,” she said.

Blewett said a full repeal would increase the uninsured rate and Minnesota’s existing programs would receive less funding. “I think Minnesota would have to start from scratch.”

The act, signed in 2010, aimed to increase access for the uninsured, Blewett said

She said she thinks the provision allowing people 26 and under to stay on their parents’ plan would remain in place under a new plan because of its popularity.

Blewett said a fraction of the Republicans on the federal level want to repeal the whole ACA, while others would rather keep parts of it.

“There are a lot of advantages to the program at the state level, so there are some moderate Republicans who don’t want to repeal everything,” she said. “It’s a real opportunity to pass something, but there’s currently a lot of disagreement.”