McCollum on campus for health care talks

The congresswoman marked the anniversary of the health care reform bill’s passage.

by James Nord

Even WednesdayâÄôs icy downpour didnâÄôt keep Congresswoman Betty McCollum, D-Minn., from celebrating the federal health care reform billâÄôs one-year anniversary.
McCollum trudged into the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Boynton Health Service to tour the facility and consult with experts on key aspects of the year-old law. She took suggestions from Carl Anderson, chief operating officer of Boynton, and a panel of other University officials.
The conversation centered on how the University delivers health care to students and staff, what effect federal health care reform has had on care for students and how McCollum could help improve health in Minnesota.
âÄúI believe sheâÄôs looking for positive indicators of health care reform and the value for students,âÄù Anderson said after the meeting. âÄúSheâÄôs looking for ways to manage different issues around health care.âÄù
As the discussion about the UniversityâÄôs health practices progressed, McCollum and the group highlighted key areas of health care reform for students: the ability to stay on parentsâÄô plans as dependants until age 26; the elimination of provisions allowing insurance companies to deny pre-existing conditions coverage for children under 19; and the improved coverage for students who sometimes opt to enroll in low-cost, high-risk plans often known as âÄúscam plans.âÄù
On the topic of âÄúscam plans,âÄù McCollum simply said, âÄúI have a college-age student, I know.âÄù
She applauded the UniversityâÄôs health insurance mandate for students taking six credits or more, a trend that is âÄúnow playing out on the national levelâÄù under the new law. She also praised the UniversityâÄôs diverse preventative care options and public health outreach efforts.
University staffers described the âÄúGopher Chauffeur,âÄù a van that transports students across campus on weekends. Although Dave Golden, director of Public Health and Communications, said he originally called the van a âÄúdrunk bus,âÄù it has helped a lot of students remain safe.
Another University policy places âÄúhealth advocatesâÄù in residence halls and greek houses to help students who are under medical duress or need advice.
McCollum praised such efforts as beneficial when taking a holistic approach to health care.
âÄúI think youâÄôve got a really great model here that teaches young adults to be healthy adults,âÄù she said.
Veterans and mental health issues were also a hot topic. Mental health services are the fastest-growing sector of services offered by Boynton, Anderson said, and McCollum offered political advice on solving the issues.
McCollum said she has been visiting communities in her district for the past few days during a Congressional recess to âÄúput [constituentsâÄô] words to actionâÄù in Washington.
Because Republicans now control the U.S. House and could try to defund or repeal health care reform, McCollum is likely looking for positive parts to tout, Anderson said.
Uninsured student rates have decreased by about a percentage point since the bill was enacted, he said, adding that health care reform is going to âÄúsignificantly reduce the risk that students have in their education, that the state has in their education, that the University has in their education.âÄù
The provisions to allow young adults to stay on their parentsâÄô insurance plans until age 26 and to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children under 19 went into effect in September. Other new provisions of the law will become effective on a staggered basis until it is fully enacted in 2014.