Five Ways The Affordable Care Act Helps Young Americans
1. Staying on your parents’ plan.
A provision in the Affordable Care Act allows young Americans under 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan. To date, that’s resulted in 2.5 million previously uninsured young Americans gaining health insurance.
The benefit is especially important because young Americans have a higher chance of being uninsured than older age groups. Of Americans under 24, one in five was lacking insurance in 2010. The under-26 provision ensures that young Americans don’t lose coverage after graduation or between jobs.
By 2014, an estimated 12.1 million young adults will have quality, affordable health care thanks to the legislation.
2. Student health plans are more comprehensive than ever.
Under new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services, the more than 3 million students on college health plans will receive more extensive coverage. By the 2014-2015 academic year, these plans will have completely phased out lifetime or annual benefit caps, ensuring that students can afford any necessary procedures.
Additionally, the regulations ensure that colleges and insurance companies aren’t profiting from students’ health issues by increasing the medical loss ratio, or the amount of premiums that must go towards health care costs and quality improvement. By 2014, 80 percent of premiums on student insurance plans must be spent on health care costs.
The much-publicized debate over whether student health plans should cover contraception has turned in favor of students, too. All college health plans must provide birth control, at no cost to students. Religiously affiliated colleges, which will not have to foot the cost of the birth control, have the option to wait one year before providing contraception.
3. A focus on preventive care coverage makes life more worry-free.
Services that were sometimes not included in health insurance plans are now free under new health plans. These services include smoking cessation programs, counseling on diet and weight loss, and counseling for depression or substance abuse.
Focusing on preventive care coverage not only makes life a bit easier, it reduces the overall cost of health care by helping people avoid health problems in the beginning.
4. Insurance providers cannot discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions.
Prior to the ACA, 33 states were legally permitted to charge some people a higher premium because of their gender or health status. And companies faced very few restrictions on when and how they applied such premiums.
But the Affordable Care Act works to prevent such discrimination by placing tighter restrictions on companies and preventing them from charging higher premiums to people under 19 with pre-existing conditions and ensuring that older Americans with such conditions also have affordable plans.
A major component of this change is barring insurance companies from charging women a higher rate than men. The legislation also prohibits insurers from considering pregnancy a pre-existing condition and requires certain women’s health services—mammograms, domestic violence screenings, birth control, and others—to be covered without co-payments.
5. Medical students can receive help paying back loan debt and will have a better chance of finding a medical job.
The legislation provides financial support for the National Health Services Corps Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program. Through the $12 million program, medical school graduates who agree to work as primary care doctors in under-served communities are eligible to receive up to $120,000 to repay outstanding loans. The National Health Service Corps has more than 10,000 clinicians—including primary care physicians, dentists, and other specialists. The Loan Repayment Program will give 100 awards in 2012, its first year.
The ACA also increases federal investments in the Pell Grant program by $40 billion in an effort to ensure students can afford to pursue medical education.
In addition to helping ensure Americans can afford to pursue a medical career, the ACA increases funding for programs that train and place graduates in health care fields. Combined with investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding will help create more than 12,000 new positions for doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants by 2016.
The ACA also creates a Prevention and Public Health Fund, which will help create new positions for primary care doctors, fund training programs for physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, and push states to invest in health care training and job creation.
Brian Stewart is the communications director at Generation Progress.