Staff Editorial: After five years, Obamacare still offers useful benefits for students

The Affordable Care Act had its fifth anniversary on Monday March 23. Better known as Obamacare, the plan has divided Republicans and Democrats ever since its passage. Republicans have tried and failed to repeal the law dozens of times, and even the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Obamacare, upholding the law by a vote of 5-4 in 2012.

United States Sen. Ted Cruz––who recently announced his candidacy for president in 2016––expressed his goal to see Obamacare fully repealed despite also announcing that he would be signing up for the exchange after falling off of his wife’s plan. On the fifth anniversary of Obamacare, it is instructive to look at what the law has actually accomplished, especially for students. Most notably, the law allows students to remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. For students whose parents do not have insurance, however, the law has also regulated student health plans across campuses nationwide.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Obamacare requires student insurance plans to offer preventative care, prescription coverage, access to Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, increase coverage caps and stop denying coverage to students based on pre-existing conditions. Student health plans––upon which over one million college students rely according to the American Council on Education––are essentially being subjected to the same standards as regular health insurance plans.

This is incredibly important for many reasons. Previously, schools that required students to have some form of health insurance—38 percent of public four-year colleges, according to 2008 survey by the American College Health Association—forced students to buy into plans that would not even cover their maladies.

While Obamacare has bolstered student insurance plans, there is no evidence to suggest that premiums have uniformly increased. Schools that introduced the ACA-mandated reforms gradually, focusing on encouraging enrollment and utilization of on-campus resources, actually saw a slight decrease in premiums.

Without the regulations and benefits mandated by the ACA, schools essentially had license to rob students via health insurance premiums that did not buy them comprehensive coverage. Schools should not be allowed to force students to pay into plans that will either exclude them from coverage based on pre-existing conditions or cut off care based on arbitrary coverage caps. If the supposed increase in premiums forces schools to abandon their insurance plans rather than abide by the new mandates, then students will be better off not paying for ineffective coverage.

Amid all the partisan fervor surrounding Obamacare, it is clear that students have benefitted from its rollout and will continue to—as long as the GOP continues to be unsuccessful in dismantling it.