ACA repeal fails, but attempts continue

BY CHEYENNE ELLIS '21

After previous attempts in July 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans attempted again on Monday, only to fail after three GOP Senators announced plans to vote against the “Graham-Cassidy” bill. However, plans to resurrect the repeal are already in motion, according to Politico. Although a deadline for reform has been set for Sept. 30, Republicans aim to avoid this by including health care reform and tax reform requirements in the 2018 fiscal year budget. As with past attempts at reform, the bill will most likely evenly distribute federal block grant funds and to transfer health care requirements from federal to state control.

 Massachusetts, considered a high-cost state for health care, would see significant decreases in federal income for Medicaid. Bill Cassidy, a leader of the earlier repeal effort, told The New York Times that “Right now, 37 percent of the revenue from the Affordable Care Act goes to Americans in four states […] That is frankly not fair.” 

After this week, the procedural protections for repeal will have ended, requiring a 60 vote approval instead of just the majority of the senate. 

What a repeal would mean for Mount Holyoke students is largely unclear right now. According to several sources, the bill does appear to keep the Obamacare rule of allowing people under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ plans. This is good news for students, including Kiely Quinn ’21, who spoke of the popular Affordable Care Act addition.

“I think students should be allowed to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan,” said Quinn. “Given that the cost of tuition is already so high, students should not be forced to take out another loan.”

The concerns for some college students do not end there. Many students and their families with pre-existing conditions would face a spike in costs upon a repeal, since they are not explicitly covered under the existing draft. While the bill does not allow insurers to deny an applicant coverage, it does allow an individual state to obtain a waiver, allowing them to charge ill applicants higher premiums and stripping them of benefits. This could be life-threatening for citizens who are unable to afford the rising cost of their insurance.

Graduate students, in addition, are facing their own health care challenges. With 32 percent of Mount Holyoke graduates pursuing advanced studies immediately after graduation, this concern exists for current students as well. At present, many colleges are offering grad students stipends that cover the cost of healthcare, but this is at-risk due to a possible misinterpretation of the Affordable Care Act. This concern arose because of questions revolving around whether graduate students should be classified as students or employees, following unionization attempts. Barbara Knuth, dean of the graduate school at Cornell University, is against removing stipends and describes the potential healthcare for grad students as being “worse coverage at a higher cost,” according to Inside Higher Ed. While whether repealing the Affordable Care Act would ultimately hurt graduate students remains ambiguous, the rising tension felt by college students around the country is undeniable.

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