Navigating the Affordable Care Act

By Christianna Van Dalsen, Staff Writer

“Nobody gets to tell me what to do” is one of the thoughts that thrill college students and newfound legal adult. Severely misguided as the thought may be, being required to purchase health insurance was never an obvious exception to that notion.

But that will be the case as of 2014.

“If a taxpayer who is an applicable individual, or an applicable individual for whom the taxpayer is liable under paragraph (3), fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) for 1 or more months, then, except as provided in subsection (e), there is hereby imposed on the taxpayer a penalty with respect to such failures in the amount determined under subsection (c),” reads page 145 of the Affordable Care Act.

To decode, it lists a requirement that you need to have health insurance or you have to pay a fine.

“The administration estimates that a little over a third of the people on the exchanges need to be in the 18-to-35 range to hold premiums down to reasonable levels,” said Megan McArdle, of

Young, healthy people paying more than they have previously are the financing mechanism that makes the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets work.

“The benefit in having healthcare as a requirement is it maintains the universal healthcare stance,” said emergency medical technician and junior Josh Weil. “It would be hard to say it’s universal health care if it was selective.”

The belief that universal healthcare offers much needed benefits was tantamount with all interviewed students; however, the fiscal reality that someone has to pay for it caused concern.

“I didn’t have any healthcare until college, so, coming from a background with no healthcare, having the opportunity to have cheaper healthcare is good,” said senior Daniel Bizada. “However, I think being forced to pay a fine when you can barely afford to pay for healthcare is contradictory.”

In 2014, the penalty will depend on whichever amount racks up to a greater total: 1% of your household income or $95 per person.

The longer you go without healthcare, the higher your fee. In 2015 the penalty is either 2% of your household income or $325 per person. If you’re uninsured for more than 3 months, you pay 1/12 of whichever fine applies to you. Also, you cannot just be insured. You need to meet a minimum essential coverage requirement to meet the other requirement.

“I think every person should have healthcare, but if you can barely afford to pay for healthcare and you get a fine you can’t afford the fine either, so what is the point,” said CCE senior Pamela Horn. “I don’t think you should be forced to get it if you can’t afford it.”

There are exceptions to the rule.

“No penalty shall be imposed under subsection (a) with respect to … any applicable individual for any month if the applicable individual’s required contribution (determined on an annual basis) for coverage for the month exceeds 8 percent of such individual’s household income for the taxable year,” page 148 of The Affordable Care Act reads.

Traditional students may be on Guilford insurance, but CCE students are not. College fees, living expenses, perhaps kids: how can health insurance possibly factor into the equation, even if it is deemed “affordable” from a percentage standpoint?

“(The requirement) is a catch 22; it has its good and it has its bad. It would be more beneficial if it allowed more people to receive it, if the good outweighed the bad,” said Horn.

As idealistic as universal healthcare may seem, the reality of having to pay for it may cause weltschmerz (Editors Note: A German term denoting the feeling one gets when they understand that reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind) for both seasoned CCE and sprouting traditional students alike.

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