Why students should care about ObamaCare

“The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” President Barack Obama said before signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in March 2010.

The PPACA, more commonly known as ObamaCare, has created a mixture of hope and controversy throughout the nation. As one of the biggest changes to the United States healthcare system since Medicaid and Medicare, its provisions will affect almost every American in some way. But how does this change affect college students at The University of Southern Mississippi?

Do you already have insurance?

Individuals without Medicaid, Medicare, religious exemptions, exemptions from being part of a recognized American Indian tribe or acceptable employer-provided plans will need to purchase coverage or pay a tax penalty and have it deducted from his or her 2015 tax return.

The new law states young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old and remain exempt from the tax penalty.

How much is the penalty?

Most college students are on a budget. The penalty is the greater of $95 or 1 percent of taxable income for individuals and $285 or 1 percent for families. The tax penalties begin at the end of 2014 and will reach their peak at the end of 2016 when individuals will pay $695 and families will pay $2,085 or 2.5 percent of their income.

Yes, insurance is expensive. College students already have textbooks to buy, bills to pay and Ramen Noodles to eat. Fortunately, there’s help.

How to get the insurance:

Health insurance exchanges were created on Healthcare.gov to give people the opportunity to apply for tax subsidies to help with the costs and search through available “bronze,” “silver” and “gold” plans that have varying deductibles and monthly premiums. The average monthly premium for a mid-tier plan is $328 before tax credits, said the Department of Health and Human Services.

Keep in mind one can only buy coverage on the marketplace from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. If not purchased by Dec. 15, one could see delays in coverage by up to six weeks. But there are exceptions for people who experience a life-changing situation, like losing a job or moving to a new state.

Because the premiums are a hefty amount for anyone to pay, the new law attempted to expand Medicaid for those who can’t afford insurance. If someone falls below the 138 percent of the federal poverty line, about $15,415 annually for individuals and $26, 244 for a family of three, they could be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage. Unfortunately, Mississippi is one of 25 states to reject the Medicaid expansion despite ranking No. 1 in diabetes and poverty and No. 2 in obesity.

Large amounts of scammers are utilizing the confusion in the new marketplace. Never give personal information on any website unless it’s the Healthcare.gov website or on the Marketplace Call Center hotline at 1.800.318.2596.

People who have purchased insurance or already had coverage will avoid the tax penalty.

At this point you are free to search the Internet for the thousands of opinions on the new law and form one yourself. Either way, your part of the individual mandate is done, and you can continue studying for that history exam next Thursday.

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