By MANDI STEFFEY
IU South Bend Students recently received notification that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, will require them to purchase some kind of health insurance coverage before March of 2014 if they weren’t previously covered. The same applies for students, as well as other civilians, nationwide.
According to the e-bulletin that IUSB students received, the health care exchange websites are now open to the state of Indiana.
The website that students were directed to, www.HealthCare.gov, is a step-by-step insurance website that aims to help guide people to buy the health insurance coverage that is right for them based on a series of questions presented in a survey-like format.
Nationally, the website is getting flak for having many glitches, not allowing users who may want to purchase coverage now to actually secure a plan on the website.
Reuters reporters Jeff Mason and Lucia Mutikani say these glitch problems are disrupting the smooth roll-out of the healthcare plan that President Obama was likely expecting. Americans nationwide, as well as IUSB students, are echoing that thought.
“So far, its website itself has been a major failure. I doubt anyone had seen that coming,” said Innocent Byiringiro, a student at IUSB. “They ought to educate people about it because very few people understand the facts about it and what’s gonna happen exactly.”
Mason and Mutikani note that the website is the Obama administration’s “online portal for consumers in 36 states.” Since its implementation, many users have experienced error messages and delays in page loading as well as other problems.
While the website is glitchy now, Obama made a statement on October 26 in his weekly web address to the nation that somewhat provides a timeline. He said his administration will be hiring more people to address the problem and that users should expect a problem-free website by Nov. 30.
The deadline to enroll seems to remain the same despite the glitches on the website, though some lawmakers are urging the president’s administration to extend the deadline. ABC News projects that only three in every ten attempts to buy insurance are currently working for consumers, leaving a good majority uncovered.
According to a press release issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, those who enroll in a healthcare plan can be covered as early as January 1 of the coming year.
U.S. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was quoted in the same press release talking about the benefits the new Health Insurance Marketplace could bring.
“For years, the financial, physical or mental health of millions of Americans suffered because they couldn’t afford the care they or their family needed,” Sebelius said. She went on to say that the website will make choosing a plan easier and more accessible to Americans.
HHS representatives say consumers can go about choosing a plan in many different ways, like participating in “online web chats” and speaking with service representatives. For those wary of navigating the website alone, HHS also states that in-person guidance can be sought from local healthcare service providers who are trained in using the website. Some libraries are projected to be trained as well.
Data released by HHS shows that people who use the online marketplace will be able to choose from around 53 different health plans.
The same data says the insurance premiums will be down by an average of 16 percent. HHS also claims that nearly six in ten uninsured Americans will be able to get insurance for premiums costing $100 or less.
One of the most anticipated problems is that those who are uninsured and do not want to be insured will not purchase coverage by the deadline. HealthCare.gov is reminding those in that category that they will be fined if they plan to remain uninsured.
“The fee in 2014 is 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher,” the website states. “The fee increases every year. In 2016 it is 2.5% of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.”
It’s likely that a $695 fee or even a $95 fee would be at least somewhat difficult to pay for the average full-time student who is supporting his or herself. Since the actual cost of the minimum essential coverage to avoid the fine might be higher than the fine itself, some students may opt to just go without.
“Older people and those with serious health problems ought to glorify [the Affordable Care Act],” Byiringiro said. “I’m afraid it’ll be cheaper for me, a young healthy person, to afford the fine than the insurance itself.”
Byiringiro also noted that because of the political charge and feelings some may have about the issue, the knowledge many young people have might be clouded.
Lawmakers in Washington are divided on this issue, most of them making statements that reinforce the value of their political parties. For example, Senator Ted Cruz (R) is trying to stop the ACA from growing to fruition. Cruz fronted the campaign that in part led to the partial 16-day government shutdown.
If everything runs as the Obama administration has planned, the website will be utilized by many Americans who will need to purchase healthcare coverage.
To be covered by January 1, 2014, students and other civilians alike will need to select and purchase a plan by December 15. Open enrollment in general, to avoid the fee issued by not enrolling, has a March 31, 2014 deadline.
Fully understanding the ACA is the only way a consumer can ensure that they will select the most affordable and fitting healthcare package. IUSB officials have encouraged students to speak with the Health and Wellness Center if they have any lingering questions.
For a full rundown on the facts, visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov.
Stay with The Preface for updates on this situation that could affect students seeking healthcare.