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Bill extension aims to provide affordable health care

As unemployment rates continue to climb, the health care overhaul becomes more important to the nearly 2 million young adult students who could benefit from remaining on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
By September, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will create a standard definition of “dependent” across all states, determining which adult students will be eligible for the extension. The provision will aid one in three young adults who are uninsured.
“Traditionally, it is people our age who go off health insurance,” senior Craig Sinclair, president of the non-ASLC chartered Linfield Democrats, said.
For those who do not qualify for the extension, the bill aims to provide more affordable coverage with state-based health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014. The exchanges offer choices for plans, creating a more competitive market for health insurance. One of the
lower cost exchange categories is titled the “young invincible,” which young adults qualify for until age 30.
One argument against the policy is that young adults will bear the burden of medical costs for older Americans, in turn raising insurance premiums. Medicare currently operates similarly in that it is a publicly funded health insurance program.
By 2014, the federal government will require most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. As a result, young adults who want coverage from the individual market could see premiums rise as much as 17 percent each month.
“I feel, as a member of a middleclass family, that the middle class is suffering more with this bill, and only the lower classes will benefit,” sophomore Clia Zwilling, president of the Linfield Republicans, said.
But for young adults with pre-existing conditions, the benefits will outweigh the costs.
For Sinclair, the new bill is a safety net for the unpromising job market. Before the bill’s passage, Sinclair said that he worried how he would afford coverage considering his Crohn’s Disease. In the coming years, the act will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to all individuals because of pre-existing conditions.
“We’re not punishing people for the illnesses they can’t help anymore,” Sinclair said. “I don’t know why we hadn’t done something like that prior.”
Sinclair said he sees the act as common sense rather than the radical piece of legislation some of the news media deem it as.
While Zwilling said she agrees with her party’s push to extend coverage until age 26 to qualifying adults, she said she believes the act signals a greater centralization of government power.
“It could be a stepping stone,” she said. “The act could very easily set precedents for more power.”
Zwilling said she is on the Linfield health insurance plan and is not sure if she will benefit from the age extension when the time comes. Whether she decides to move onto her parents’ plan, Zwilling said she disagrees with the legislative process.
“I don’t like how speedily the process went,” she said. “It wasn’t cohesive.”
In spite of concerns for higher premiums, the act will ensure that a group most likely to go without insurance will be able to afford coverage.
“We’re taking entry-level jobs that don’t necessarily have the best benefits,” Sinclair said. “I’m just happy something was done.”
Chelsea Langevin
Senior reporter Chelsea Langevin can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com

CORRECTION:

The Linfield Republicans club is chartered by ASLC. The Review apologizes for the mistake. (4/18/10)

Government now issues student loans

When President Barack Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Bill into law March 30, the federal government became the primary lender of student loans.

In past years, banks were the common lenders of student loans. Now, as stated in the bill, the government will lend money directly to college students for all federal loans.

The Linfield Financial Aid Office made the transition to using only government-issued loans this year but the new law will go into effect July 1.

“We saw it coming,” Loan Coordinator Sharon Sweeney said. “Other schools waited until they were forced to switch, and now some of them are scrambling to make the change.”

About 80 percent of student loans were funded by the government before the measure was passed. Many banks stopped loaning to students in recent years, Sweeney said.

The change was a “switch to cut out unnecessary middlemen,” Obama said during a speech at Northern Virginia Community College on March 30.

The government will no longer be required to pay subsidies to banks for college loans or pay off debt from students who default on loans. The change will save the government an estimated $68 billion during the next 11 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“If the money saved that goes back to the government is going to be dispersed in the form of other financial aid, then I think that’s a good thing,” junior Klya Iveans said.

Iveans transferred to Linfield this fall and uses loans to help pay for tuition.

The savings by the federal government will be used to allocate more funds to community colleges, more Pell Grants and more subsidized loans to students and establish relaxed repayment terms to borrowers, Sweeney said.

The only change students may have noticed because of the switch was the need to fill out a new Master Promissory Note to receive loans.

“It doesn’t affect eligibility, interest, the terms of loans or anything else,” Sweeney said.

Students with Stafford Loans who are graduating this spring will be asked to attend an exit counseling meeting May 6, she said.

The switch may also affect how students pay back loans, Sweeney said. Students may have to pay back two lenders — the government and the banks that issued older loans — instead of using one payment plan.

But the biggest effect of the change will be the impact on banks and other financial institutions, such as Sallie Mae, one of the largest lenders of student loans.

“A lot of people stand to lose jobs because of this,” Sweeney said.

Shawn Fisher

News reporter Shawn Fisher can be reached at linfieldreviewnews@gmail.com

Health care reform sends students back to insurance-policy nest

Nearly 2 million young adults nationwide will be able to return to their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26 by September 2010.

After 14 months of passionate arguments across party lines, the federal government signed the Patient Protection and Affordability Act into law March 30. The act formalized
President Barack Obama’s effort to extend affordable health care coverage to all Americans by insuring roughly 32 million Americans. 

In Oregon, there are about 60,000 students who are eligible to move back onto their parents’ plans. Young adults qualify for this extension as long as they do not have access to insurance through their employer. However, this only applies if they are college student. 

“I think this legislation is an intelligent way to cover a group that’s often looked over,” Wu said.

The new federal law provides a minimum form of dependent coverage for all states. Before the reform, states such as Alabama, California and Hawaii, did not have state laws requiring extended dependent coverage to young adults.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will create a standard definition for “dependent” to eliminate inconsistencies among states based on tax status or residency.

Graduating students who are covered by the school health insurance plan should check with the school to determine if coverage ends after graduation or continues until the next calendar year.

In order to provide coverage for dependents, employees will have to share part of the premium with the employer, who is paying the rest.

However, this law does not include expansions for dental and vision benefits. Instead, the insurance companies and states will determine eligibility and the degree of coverage.

“No piece of legislation solves all problems,” Wu said. “This will move young people ahead significantly.”

The act marks a significant milestone in the health care overhaul, as 95 percent of Americans will now have access to affordable coverage.

Since 1912, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Agenda, presidents have fought for more comprehensive health care coverage.

“It’s been a longtime coming,” Wu said.

The federal government will require all people to obtain minimal health care coverage by 2014.

The act will limit the cost of premiums and cost-sharing for those people who earn wages less than four times of the federal poverty line. The act also improves employee responsibility provisions by removing debilitating stipulations, such as the 60- and 90-day waiting period.

“I do think that 50 years from now, this legislative effort will stand alongside the GI Bill in importance, and people will wonder why America was the last industrial country to do this,” Wu said.

For small businesses providing coverage, the act requires states to establish an American Health Benefit Exchange to assist them.

By 2014, the act will extend Medicaid coverage to qualifying low-income individuals under 65 years old. The law also removed lifetime caps, meaning a policy will not be canceled simply because someone requires expensive medical treatment.

By September, the new law will stop insurance companies from rejecting children for coverage simply because of pre-existing conditions.

Wu said that the legislation is perhaps more important to the 200 million Americans who already have coverage because they do not have to worry about their families going bankrupt for pre-existing conditions.

“A lot of people say, ‘I would change my job, but I can’t because my son has diabetes,’” Wu said. “Taking away that uncertainty is important.”

For more information about how the act affects current students and young adults in general, visit www.younginvincibles.org/cover.html.

This is the first part in a three-part series regarding the new health care legislation. Next week will focus on effects on students.

Chelsea Langevin
Senior reporter Chelsea Langevin can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmai.com

Online exclusive: Congressman Wu visits campus for ‘Pizza & Politics’

Congressman David Wu, from Oregon's First Congressional District, talks with junior Katie Paysinger (middle) and senior Chelsea Langevin (far left) in the Austin Reading Room of Nicholson Library on April 6. Wu was here as part of "Pizza & Politics," an event sponsored by the Department of Political Science. -Megan Myer/Photo editor

David Wu in the Austin Reading Room of Nicholson Library -Megan Myer/Photo editor

Representative David Wu took questions from Linfield students in the Austin Reading Room of Nicholson Library on April 6 during the Department of Political Science’s  “Pizza & Politics” event; topics included health care, representing constituents, the USA PATRIOT Act and President Obama’s plan to privatize manned space flight.

Wu, a Democrat, represents Oregon’s First Congressional district, which includes Yamhill County, in the United States House of Representatives.

Wu explained to students how he feels he was elected to have a level head in Congress, and that he tries to maintain a balance between directly reflecting the desires of his constituents and reflecting his own core values.

He is also notable for being the first Taiwanese-American and Chinese-American in Congress, being in office since 1999 and chairing the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation.

While the discussion was short, no more than 35 minutes, students were generally engaged with the congressman and asked a variety of questions.

Braden Smith
Opinion editor Braden Smith can be reached at linfieldreviewonline@gmail.com