Obamacare and What It Means to You

Illustration/ Jonard La Rosa

The Affordable Care Act has been a polarizing piece of legislation, drawing harsh and friendly rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum.

On March 23, 2010, almost four years ago, President Barack Obama and his supermajority of Democrats in the House and the Senate passed the ACA, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Now, one full presidential term later the plan is in effect, and as of Oct. 1 you may now shop for health insurance.

A central part of the ACA is the individual mandate. The mandate will require all American citizens to have health insurance, similar to how all registered vehicles must have auto insurance. The mandate will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Anyone who does not have insurance by then must pay a fine of $95 a year, which will increase to $325 in 2015, then to $695 in 2016, the legislation states. Children will pay half of what the adults have to pay, according to the plan.

Americans are left with less than three months to get themselves and their families insured. For many students, this will not be an issue, said Alameda County Public Health Commissioner Ken Coelho. If you already have health coverage, the ACA and the federal mandate do not affect you, he said. Gallup polls record 44.5 percent of all Americans receive health insurance through their employers.

Alameda County offers a safety net called HealthPAC, said Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. HealthPAC is offered to those whose annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. In addition, the program will continue to cover undocumented immigrants, who are not affected by the mandate.

“I’m very proud to work in a county that sees health care as a basic human right to be provided regardless of immigration status,” said Briscoe.

Students who do not have coverage from their parents but work part-time or on campus will not get subsidies from the government to purchase a plan, said Coelho. Students who are part of the work-study program on campus and are paid 10 to 20 hours a week, regardless of how many hours they actually work, will have to pay full price for health coverage.

“Everything out there is geared toward helping individuals; we’re trying to cover more folks,” said Coelho. “Twenty hours a week is a significant amount of work that you put in, it’s not full-time but it’s still a significant amount of work and so you want to find an innovative means to actually pay for that,” said Coelho, who indicated that the county would look into filling in this gap.

CSU East Bay offers health insurance through Wells Fargo Insurance Services, which offers plans for international and domestic students, CSUEB’s website states. Rates for domestic students range from $2,174 a year for students age 24 and under, to $4,006 annually for students aged 31 to 40, the website states. The school also offers dental coverage through Anthem Blue Cross. Plans may be purchased on a quarterly basis.

California hopes to offer additional coverage this year for vision and dental plans, said Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. “It’s not final yet, they’re still in the process of doing it, but they are hoping to roll something out like that sometime this year,” he said.

Students who are over 26 and are registered as financially independent may be eligible for Medi-Cal, according to the California Department of Health Care Services. Currently, individuals are eligible for Medi-Cal if their annual income is less than $15,856. Independent adults under the expansion who do not have children will now be eligible for the program.

To find more information about what kind of premiums or subsidies you may be eligible for, visit http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator. You may also visit the state’s online healthcare marketplace to find an insurance plan or see if you are eligible for Medi-Cal at https://www.coveredca.com. Additional information on CSUEB’s health coverage may be found at https://www.csuhealthlink.com/enroll/schools.aspx