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May 18 2017
by Allison Humphrey

6 Ways Healthcare Reform Affects You as a College Student

By Allison Humphrey - May 18 2017
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If President Trump will go down in history for anything, it’ll be for the immense chaos of the first four months of his administration. Between the FBI scandals and now the so-called “Russia-gate” information leak, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disoriented every time you scroll through Twitter. A new scandal seems to appear every day. "Did that really happen last week?" You may find yourself asking. "It seems like years ago."

It’s understandably difficult to decide what to focus on. Events that might have seemed major if they had happened during a more “typical” president’s tenure (for example, the reinstatement of the “global gag rule,” a Reagan-era executive order designed to cut federal funding to international organizations that mention the word “abortion”) can often fall by the wayside in the 24-hour news cycle. However, amidst the confusion, there’s one important political development that we shouldn’t forget so easily: The American Health Care Act, one passed just under two weeks ago by the House and currently being reviewed by the Senate.

Admittedly, it’s unlikely that the Senate will pass the notoriously controversial bill — and sources have revealed that a secret committee within the Senate is currently working on its own version of health care reform, expected to pass when the Senate reconvenes after recess — but this hasn’t stopped think pieces from flooding the internet. Articles have detailed the effects on mothers, cancer patients and organ donors, but one key demographic is missing: us. How exactly would the AHCA affect young adults and college students? Would the effect be drastic or minimal? Without further ado, here’s a brief look at six ways that the AHCA would affect you

1. Parental Coverage

Like the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the AHCA would keep “adult children” and college students on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. This means, in effect, that the most criticized aspects of the new plan (the lack of coverage for nearly all pre-existing conditions) would not affect a college student who is currently covered until well after graduation. Of course, if your parents decide to remove you as a dependent from their plan, change health insurance policies, transfer jobs or otherwise alter their health insurance, disastrous consequences could apply.

2. Birth Control

The ACA mandates that insurance providers cover birth control medications and doctors’ visits related to birth control. The AHCA does not. This means that women could pay upwards of $50 for a month’s supply of birth control pills and a whopping $800 for a hormonal IUD. Any doctors’ visits could cost upwards of $250 per visit, and don’t even think about an abortion unless you can afford to pay between $500 and $3,375. The AHCA plan also includes provisions to defund Planned Parenthood entirely. You’d better stock up on free condoms from the health clinic.

3. Mental Health Care

Obamacare includes mandates for insurers to cover therapy visits, prescription medication, inpatient stays and other forms of mental health care. Unsurprisingly, the AHCA does not. Common mental illnesses, such as depression, general anxiety, OCD, ADHD and manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disorder) are considered “pre-existing conditions” and could allow insurers to deny coverage or inflate premiums. Antidepressants could become so expensive that they’re essentially useless to the general population.

Mental health experts expect the current suicide epidemic in the United States to increase sharply. The House recently repealed an Obama-era regulation preventing mentally ill people from purchasing handguns. (Mentally ill people have a disproportionately low record of attempting mass shootings, but suicide by gun comprises half of all attempted suicides and nearly all completed ones.) 

How does this affect college students? Statistically, we’re more at risk for the development of mental illnesses than the general population and have less disposable income. If we can’t afford to seek treatment for illnesses, the “best four years” may not be so great.

4. Premiums

Of course, the most important thing in all of this is the cost. A major criticism of the ACA was the rise in premiums for many employees. The AHCA tries to fix this… by increasing premiums by 13 percent on average. A birth with no complications can result in a premium increase of 425 percent, or $17,600 annually. Obviously, most college students aren’t preparing to be parents, but if you happen to be a cancer survivor, have diabetes or asthma, you can expect a premium hike of up to $140,000 a year. For a terrifying comparison: the average salary after taxes is $81,400.

5. Preexisting Conditions

Assuming that you’re on your parents’ insurance, preexisting conditions aren’t a real issue facing colleges students. However, should you switch to a different plan, you should be aware that the list of preexisting conditions is growing. These conditions could either prevent you from getting coverage or having a severely increased premium that, for most people, is far too expensive to pay. A few standouts from the list of pre-existing conditions: acne, anxiety, organ donation (that’s right — donate a kidney and you could lose insurance) and complications from rape.

6. Rape

Yes, you read that right. Rape is now a pre-existing condition under the AHCA plan. Given the epidemic of campus rape, it’s not a stretch to assume that either you or a close friend will be assaulted on campus: one in five women and one in 71 men will be during their time in college. If you chose to seek hospital care or press charges, the AHCA would allow insurers to deny you coverage. This intimidates survivors, who are much less likely to report if they’d risk their insurance, and enables rapists, who may feel emboldened by the knowledge that their victims are less likely to report. As if you needed any more reason to believe that rape culture is alive and well. 

Of course, because the Senate has decided to not vote on the bill, the AHCA essentially dies in the House. However, this doesn’t mean that the battle for healthcare reform is over: the Senate committee, made up of thirteen men and no women, will meet in secret and hold no public vetting of the bill before the vote. While this is (technically) legal, it’s not reassuring. Could the Senate be preparing an even harsher bill than the House? We have no way of knowing. Keep a close eye on the vote, though — like the AHCA, the effects of the Senate bill could hit closer to home than you’d think.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Allison Humphrey - Barnard College

Allison Humphrey is a freshman at Barnard College majoring in History and minoring in English and International Relations. In high school, she was involved with marching band and was literature editor for the literary magazine. Allison loves Byronic heroines, thunderstorms at night, and bright red lipstick of any brand and price point. Follow her on Instagram @alisbeths!

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