President Donald Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — commonly referred to as Obamacare — throughout his presidential campaign and wasted no time taking steps to do so during his first day in office, leaving many University of Miami students worried about becoming uninsured in the near future.
The ACA was a health care reform plan conceived and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, aimed at expanding and improving accessible medical coverage for U.S. citizens. One of the reform’s objectives was also to protect those insured by private insurance companies from unethical practices, including barring people with pre-existing conditions from obtaining insurance.
Since its implementation, Republicans have criticized the reform for its cost to taxpayers, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan vowing to launch a “rescue mission” against the ACA.
As an undergraduate student aspiring to work within the public health sector, junior Geena Marzouca said though Obamacare was not the solution to all of the nation’s health care system problems, it was a step in the right direction in providing coverage for all, including those with pre-existing conditions, even if it’s costly for the moment.
“People tend to be more selfish when they think of health care and only think about themselves, when a healthy population is beneficial to everyone, not just an individual,” she said. “It might cost more money now but in the long run, it will be more affordable.”
Under the ACA, insurance companies are required to provide consumers the option to remain under their parent’s coverage plan until the age of 26. Before 2010, the cut-off age for children to remain under their parent’s plan was 19. Though Trump has promised to keep parts of Obamacare in the repeal-and-replace process of the reform, no concrete details have been provided on what portions would be kept.
For Marzouca, who graduates in May 2018, the thought of graduating and entering the workforce uninsured if the ACA is repealed and not replaced with another comprehensive health care plan is frightening.
“I’m about to be 21 and I’m not ready to handle insurance on my own. I’m in college. I don’t have money to do that,” she said.
In the hours following Trump’s inauguration, the newly-installed president signed an executive action instructing federal agencies to waive regulations associated with the ACA to the fullest extent allowed by the law.
According to Associate Professor in the School of Business Administration Karoline Mortensen, who specializes in assessing impacts of the ACA, Trump’s executive action is more of a ceremonial action demonstrating the beginning of the longer repeal-and-replace process.
“It’s kind of chaos right now in terms of understanding what the replacement plan would look like,” Mortensen said. “Nobody really knows right now, so these conversations will unfold over the next few months. I don’t think that they’re going to be able to get in agreement on a replacement plan this quickly.”
Under ACA, an estimated 20 million Americans have obtained health insurance since 2010. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1.5 million have enrolled through the program in the state of Florida. Many of those enrolled are residents of South Florida, including Lukas Monteho, who said when he reached the age of 18, he was dropped from his parent’s health insurance but was able to be readmitted to the plan because of the ACA.
Despite being able to obtain insurance through Obamacare, Monteho, a sophomore, said he hopes the reform is repealed and replaced by the Trump administration as soon as possible. Monteho cited rising premiums paid by consumers for services they don’t use as one of the main reasons the ACA needs to be replaced.
“Two genders are different. A lot of women get different medical conditions that wouldn’t affect me because I’m a man. I wouldn’t want to be covering women’s health for myself,” he said. “I would want to cover my own health.”
Though Monteho said he believes the ACA needs to be repealed and replaced, he said he hopes Trump keeps certain regulations, including the one that allows him to remain under his parent’s coverage.
Kayla Brown, a sophomore, said she hopes people who oppose certain parts of the ACA realize that not all policies in U.S. history have or will appeal to everyone. She said the ACA is flawed but has helped a lot of people, particularly college students, who have trouble finding full-time jobs with benefits upon graduation.
“From the perspective of a young college student, it just leaves us out in the open to fend for ourselves and God forbid something does happen, we’ll be left to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said.
According to Mortensen, concerns such as Brown’s are very realistic in the wake of the Trump administration’s decisions; however, a repeal of the ACA could also be for the better — it all depends on what the replacement entails.
“It’s looking more like there will be a replacement plan and it could potentially be better than the Affordable Care Act. It just depends on the plan,” she said. “But, right now, there’s not even a plan that’s considered a ‘front runner,’ so it’s difficult to assess.”