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Obamacare Might Kill Off College Students' Health Plans

There's an easy fix: Repeal Obamacare, and replace it with real reform.

8:03 AM, Aug 26, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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According to President Obama, "If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what." You can keep your plan, that is, if your employer doesn't decide to dump it in the wake of Obamacare's passage (as many major employers are already considering doing), if you aren't one of the estimated 51 percent of American workers (66 percent of workers in small businesses) – according to the administration’s own figures – whose plans would have to be changed or dropped under Obamacare, and if you don't have a Medicare Advantage plan or a consumer-driven (high-deductible, low-premium) plan. Now it appears that another type of plan might well be on the chopping block: college students' health plans.   

Obamacare Might Kill Off College Students' Health Plans

President Barack Obama discusses Obamacare in a speech delivered to a joint session of Congress.

According to MSNBC, "An Aug. 12 letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from the American Council on Education [ACE] and signed by 12 other trade associations representing colleges" says that Obamacare could keep colleges from offering (in the words of the ACE letter) the sort of "low-cost, high-quality student health plans" that "currently provide health coverage to more than 4.5 million college students nationwide."  

So Obamacare would require insurers to cover 25-year-old "children" on their parents' plans -- resulting in higher premiums -- while it might simultaneously ban colleges from offering 18-to-22-year-olds low-cost policies of their own. 

ACE's letter reads, "We are concerned the application of several provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), including certain insurance market reforms and the individual mandate, could make it impossible for colleges and universities to continue to offer student health plans."  Highlighting the unseemly new era of politicized, lawyer- and lobbyist-driven health care that Obamacare would spawn, it then asks Secretary Sebelius to grant a favorable regulatory ruling, explaining that the statute is so vague that the matter is now in her hands: 

[Obamacare] does not use consistent language with respect to the application of the reforms. Instead, the act uses interchangeably the terms 'health insurance coverage' and 'insurance market.'  This distinction does not appear to have any policy basis but nonetheless is causing confusion in the SHP [Student Health Plans] market, particularly with respect to the application of PHSA [the Public Health Service Act] §§2701 (premium variation), 2702 (guaranteed availability), and 2703 (guaranteed renewability) as created by [Obamacare].

Clear as mud?

The letter explains that "The application of these provisions to limited duration SHPs would prohibit colleges and universities from providing coverage only to their student population (rather than the whole individual market) and from doing so on a cost-effective basis via campus-wide (group-like) rating." 

After weighing the lobbying efforts of both sides, Sebelius will eventually render her verdict. There's nothing like democracy in motion.

None of this is pretty, nor is it necessary. There's an easy fix, supported by most Americans – one that truly would allow people to keep their plans; would lower health costs, rather than raise them; and would save roughly $2.5 trillion of taxpayers' money in Obamacare's real first decade: Repeal Obamacare, and replace it with real reform.

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