by Lauren Eller
This time a year ago, people all over the country were poised to purchase health insurance in a radically new way.
On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare) was signed into law by President Barack Obama, and on Oct. 1, 2013, it opened its website to the public for enrollment in a plan. The legislation was designed to extend affordable access to healthcare coverage to all Americans, but whether it has succeeded in doing so has become a point of national contention.
At Kenyon, it appears that Obamacare has not had a significant effect. Kim Cullers, nurse practitioner and director of health services at the Health and Counseling Center, feels that the majority of students have not been directly affected by the bill’s enactment. “In general, our population of students here is very well-insured,” she said. “Most of them are covered under good plans that their parents have purchased, that their parents pay for. One of the changes in the Affordable Care Act was prolonging coverage to age 26, so I think that’s enabled a lot of students to remain on their parents’ plans well beyond college.”
As for students here who may have been more acutely affected, Cullers said that international students would be the most likely. This was true for Sadiq Jiwa ’18, who is from Canada and needed to purchase a plan upon coming into the country. “It’s affected me in the fact that I’ve had to buy two other medical plans to get the basic coverage that I would have in Canada,” he said, adding that he was not pleased about his situation.
But while he was not impressed by the route to adequate coverage, he does not think the system overall is completely unsatisfactory. “I don’t agree that the healthcare system is necessarily bad; I just think that it didn’t turn out the way that Americans wanted it to,” Jiwa said.
Thais Henriques ’17 feels more strongly about the structure of coverage provided under Obamacare, and vastly prefers the system in her home country, Brazil. “The American healthcare system is mostly badly structured as well as too expensive,” she said. “The hospitals realize that people will pay anything to stay alive, because, I mean, who wouldn’t, and they take advantage of that and the government should control that so that people don’t get exploited just to try to stay alive.”
One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is the drastic reduction of co-payments, which are fixed payments for a service that is covered by health insurance, like birth control. Women can pick up their birth control and have it prescribed at the Health Center. Cullers estimates that the number of those who get their birth control through the Health Center is “less than five percent.”
Under Obamacare, Alex Stois ’17 pays zero out-of-pocket costs for her prescription. Whitney Simon ’15 also praised the effect of the legislation on her procurement of an intrauterine device, saying, “Under Obamacare, … my cost was zero. The entire thing was covered.” She reported that the device can run up to around $2,500. Aside from the insertion fee, which was $20, she paid very little. Simon did not have the insertion procedure done on campus.
For students like Sam Troper ’18 and Ellie Muse ’18, both of whom came down with cases of the hand, foot and mouth disease that has been plaguing campus, Obamacare has had little effect. Both have been in and out of the Health Center a great deal recently due to their illness, but report that as far as their insurance coverage goes, it remains unchanged from what it was prior to the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t pay for my health insurance,” Troper said. Muse responded similarly, saying, “Out of the people in my family … I don’t really control my family’s healthcare plan.”
It appears, however, that the coverage landscape in the future will be quite different at Kenyon. “We’re very likely going to be changing, because up until now, we’ve just provided a very basic policy,” Cullers said. She explained that “part one” of Kenyon’s plan applies to every student and is covered in students’ Health and Counseling Center fee, but “part two” is optional. “There’s certain provisions [under] the Affordable Care Act that have to do with coverage services, immunizations, prescription benefit plans, limitations on claims, so that you can’t be capped out of a certain money level,” Cullers said.
Though the interface of Kenyon’s plan with Obamacare provisions is complex, it won’t be too long before insurance options for students here will change under the evolving policies.