Panel discusses health care

As federal employees return to work, the divisive issue that brought about the shutdown is still being discussed. The Affordable Care Act was the topic of a panel hosted by Kappa Alpha Psi at the Levis Center Wednesday night.

The panel’s topics ranged from effects students will face to the expansion of health care programs and changes that will come in 2014.

Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of Champaign Community Health Care Consumers, said the Affordable Care Act has been a part of American’s lives since 2010. During that year, a bill was passed that allowed parents to add their children to their health insurance coverage until their children were 26 years old. Lennhoff said more changes will come that will continue to help Americans.

“We used to talk about health insurance sometimes as an umbrella you bought for protection, but when it’s raining and you open the umbrella, it melts in the rain,” Lennhoff said. “And that’s been the experience for a lot of people so they’ve changed the rules in favor of the consumer purchasing health insurance.”

Lennhoff said the main problem congressional leaders have with the act concerns the introduction of the Marketplace and changes to Medicaid.

“In 2014, there’s going a big expansion that’s going to provide health insurance for millions of Americans that have been without health insurance,” said Lennhoff. “That’s mostly going to happen in the form of the Marketplace.”

Americans can enroll or find out if they are eligible for private health insurance plans and Medicaid at the Health Insurance Marketplace, sometimes called the exchange, Lennhoff said.

The Marketplace can be accessed at getcoveredillinois.gov. This will help consumers find subsidized health care or learn if they are qualified for Medicaid.

Lennhoff said one of the biggest changes is the expansion of Medicaid in the states that approved it, which includes Illinois. Mike Claffey, acting deputy director in the Illinois Department of Human Rights, was not on the panel but discussed how Medicaid will become more accessible to Americans.

“The whole category of people who are poor that do not have children, that are not disabled and that are not seniors, they have not been eligible for Medicaid, which is the health insurance program for the most vulnerable members of society,” Claffey said. “Under the Affordable Care Act, it was deemed that each state has the option of expanding medicaid to include these adults.”

In late July, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to expand Medicaid in Illinois. Lafferty said the expansion is expected to help about 200,000 people from Illinois get coverage through Medicaid in 2014.

Along with Medicaid the panel also discussed how ACA will affect students at the University.

Lennhoff encourages University students to look at their student health plans and compare them with their parents’ plans or Marketplace plans, where they “might find something better than what the U of I offers.”

“The deal is that your student health insurance is not super great,” said Lennhoff.

After students turn 26, they are no longer covered by their student or parent’s insurance and not all students are immediately offered health insurance through their job following graduation. Resources, like the Marketplace, can help students get coverage, Lafferty said.

“In the past, you’re a person coming out of college, you’re getting by on a low income, you didn’t really have Medicaid as a health care option because you didn’t have children,” said Lafferty. “It’s going to make a big difference in people’s lives because for a whole broad swath of the population that did not have access to coverage in the past, they’re going to have access and its going to be very affordable, especially when you look at the subsidies that are included.”

Ben Mueller, head of Volunteer Projects and Outreach at Avicenna Community Health Center, encourages students to take their health care coverage seriously.

“There are other choices out there and everyone in the community needs to find a medical home, establish a relationship with a clinic, get to know a provider (so) when you do have a crisis, things will go a lot better for you,” Mueller said.

Kappa Alpha Psi Treasurer Anthony Wilson, senior in Business, coordinated the event to educate his peers on the act.

“Students are uninformed on a very important matter and we’d like to enlighten them in order for them to become more proactive,” Wilson said.

Taylor can be reached at [email protected]