By Jacob Axelrad
Published June 28, 2012
Today, the landmark decision to uphold President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act ensured students won’t need to worry about health care coverage in their first job out of college — they can now remain on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, as specified by the law.
In a statement issued today, Ora Pescovitz, the University’s executive vice president for medical affairs, said the University’s health system must now “move forward” as it continues to make health care more cost-efficient for students.
“We look forward to working in partnership with the federal government and local partners to create a better national health care system,” Pescovitz said.
In the 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court, the majority faction comprised Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The ruling upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate, “which requires most Americans to maintain ‘minimum essential’ health insurance coverage.”
The law says that Americans who do not have health coverage by 2014 will have to pay a penalty. A journal entry by Evan Caminker, the dean of the University’s law school, was also cited in the Supreme Court’s decision.
Another provision the Supreme Court ruled on is the expansion of Medicaid.
“(The provision) expands the scope of the Medicaid program and increases the number of individuals the States must cover,” according to the decision.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an e-mail interview that multiple aspects of the act are already being carried out by the University.
“Those (aspects) include such features as no lifetime limit on health care benefits; coverage for adult children until age 26; and elimination of co-pays on most preventive health care,” he wrote. “U-M health care did not have a provision to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”
Kara Gavin, a spokeswoman for University of Michigan Health System, wrote in an e-mail interview that UMHS is already taking steps to lower costs in reaction to the passage of the law.
“We have been very focused on using ‘lean thinking’, a concept borrowed from the auto industry, to optimize clinical and support functions for better efficiency, quality and patient experience,” she wrote. “We also continue to find ways to save money through energy efficiency improvements – 15 projects completed in 2011 are expected to save $528,000 in energy costs this year alone.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Law Prof. Samuel Bagenstos stressed the law’s importance for young people because its reforms will grant extended coverage to people on parents’ health care plans as well as the ability to buy insurance without a pre-existing condition.
“(The law) is important to people in their twenties in particular, because that had been a moment when people lost health coverage,” Bagenstos said. “They lost the ability to be on their parents’ health coverage, and now they will retain that ability.”
Mark Fendrick, co-director of the University’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that he thinks the age limit change will benefit millions of students.
“That’s one of the most attractive elements of the Affordable Care Act,” Fendrick said.
But according to Vincent Hutchings, an associate professor at the Univeristy’s Institute for Social Research’s Center for Political Studies, the law provides some good benefits but does little to change core issues, such as resolving racial and socio-economic disparities.
“The issue is whether it addresses the fundamental problem with health care and helps to address longstanding health care inequities across class and racial groups in this country — and I think the answer there is probably no,” he said.
Hutchings added that Americans spend significantly higher amounts on healthcare than citizens of other nations, but he doesn’t see that decreasing because of the bill.
“I don’t think this is going to significantly address those disparities,” Hutchings said. “To the extent that that imbalance remains, we may have only succeeded in kicking the can down the road and not solving the fundamental problem.”
Lauren Coffman, the communications director for the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said she’s happy with the law currently standing.
“I think there were a lot of great suggestions from members of the House and Senate before this bill was passed,” Coffman said. “I think it really ensures a bright future for our health care industry and our nation’s citizens.”
Managing Editor Giacomo Bologna contributed to this report.