Healthcare Legislation Set Into Motion

As of last Thursday, Sept. 23,  the Obama Administration’s health care initiative has officially gone into action, marking a historic point

in this bill’s controversial lifetime.

From now on, a parent’s insurance plan can cover their children up to the age of 26. The bill also forbids insurance companies to discriminate on pre-existing conditions in children in terms of withholding insurance coverage.

Yet, the questions as to how this will affect the student population here on campus still remains — how will we be covered?

“I believe that the health care program can improve the quality of life for possibly millions of people who need insurance,” said Ryan Rodriguez, third year economics major. “But I have reservations about what will happen when the bill takes effect. What will prevent the infamous government bureaucracy from harming the system they are trying to improve

and raising the costs of providing care to people?”

For Rodriguez and countless other students at UCI, the health care reform looks good on paper, but remains murky in terms of what it will do and what it will offer them.

As of Thursday, the age under which students can be covered by their parent’s insurance plan has been raised to 26 from previous insurance company limits of 21 or 23. This is relevant to us, as this offers those of us who are 21 and older and are still in school to benefit from health care coverage without having to worry about spending money to buy a new plan.

“I think the initiative is not as much about health care reform as it is about health insurance reform,” said Dr. Thomas A. Parham, assistant vice chancellor for Counseling and Health Services.

For UCI students, the school already offers a comprehensive health care package under USHIP, the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan. This health plan grants students the safety and ease-of-mind of having health insurance while still being economically feasible. According to Parham, some years have seen nearly 59 percent of students enrolling in the plan due to its low cost.

“[USHIP] is a very good plan and it is a very comprehensive plan that gives you coverage for a lot of things,” Parham said. “We find parents sometimes decide to sign their kids up for USHIP anyway even thought they have insurance themselves, because our plan is more comprehensive and it is cheaper.”

According to Parham, it is too early to judge what effects these new changes will bring, as it has only recently come into action. However, there are certain things that we can expect. The initiative mandates that students and families have some form of insurance coverage, which the school already does as well. Also, the mandate requires basic levels of coverage, which is dealt with by the comprehensive plan UCI offers.

However, for Parham, the issue in question revolves around the quality of the coverage offered by the parental insurance package that students can remain on, until the age of 26, if they do not sign up for USHIP. In this case, one can wonder if the number of students signing up for USHIP would be affected by these health care changes.

“USHIP is not threatened by health care reforms. Personally, I am delighted that the Obama administration has pushed it through. I am less than happy that the bill has been weakened down,” Parham said. “Our desire is not for students to just have our insurance. Our desire is for our students to have some kind of medical coverage. So as long as our students have medical coverage, whether they have their family insurance or our insurance, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. We just don’t want students being out there uninsured and something happens that impacts their family finances due to the extreme health care cost. For me, it’s that kind of insurance that is important to have for everybody.”

These reforms are nonetheless a step in a general right direction, one that will improve the life of many in some way or form.

“I think it is disturbing to me to hear that there are so many millions of Americans who have no health insurance at all or do not have access to good quality medical care,” Parham said. “I think that medical care ought to be a fundamental right of everybody. Irrespective of which particular health care insurance that they carry, I want students to know that the health services within the campus are prepared to meet their medical and psychological needs.”