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The Daily Wildcat


UA works to provide resources for students under Affordable Care Act

Kimberly Cain
Kimberly Cain / The Daily Wildcat Helena Rodrigues, the director of HR strategy and planning, speaks at the faculty seneate meeting on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013.

The UA is providing resources to help students ensure they have health insurance by January 2014, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010, making it mandatory for U.S. citizens to have health insurance. The government has since created a marketplace where people can apply for health care at a lower cost based on their income.

Cheryl O’Donnell, the state director of Enroll America, said the law requires health insurance to cover common doctor visits.

Enroll America is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on outreach and education to make sure the uninsured are able to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“Regular checkups, preventative screenings — those kinds of things are now covered under our health insurance plans,” O’Donnell said, “so the things that students would want to get health coverage for are now going to be guaranteed under their plans.”

Students can also remain on their parents’ health care plans until they’re 26 years old, regardless of marital status or whether they still live with their parents, O’Donnell added.

Graduate students not on their parents’ plans may also be able to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. Zachary Brooks, a second language acquisitions graduate student and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said he has high hopes for the changes happening.

“Any way that this ACA can help graduate students, and undergraduate students as well, get health insurance for less money, or sometimes better insurance for more money … all those things are really, really positive,” Brooks said.

Campus Health Service helps students obtain health insurance by offering the Arizona Board of Regents Student Health Insurance Plan, which is administered by Aetna Student Health. Students must meet different criteria based on the number of units they’re taking and what degree they’re seeking.

Campus Health also helps students find information about how to access and navigate federal government health care websites or other commercial health insurance, said Kris Kreutz, director of administrative services at Campus Health.

Kreutz said there are an estimated 6,500 students at the UA who, based on their financial status, might qualify for Medicaid or lower cost insurance.

Along with providing affordable health care choices for those with low income, Kreutz said the law was created to address the challenges faced by those without health insurance who may have trouble getting insured because of pre-existing conditions.

“It essentially changes the landscape,” Kreutz said, “the law of the land relative to how individuals may actually now access and receive health care insurance.”

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, many Americans were facing issues like being deprived of care or coverage if they had been previously ill, Kreutz said, adding that the purpose of the act is to fix these issues.

However, Kreutz said he warns students that buying a plan because it is inexpensive is not always going to lead to the best route of care for possible future health problems.

“It’s like buying a car,” Kreutz said. “If you don’t have a radio or you don’t have a CD player, it costs less.”

O’Donnell said cheaper plans may lead to higher deductibles, meaning people pay more out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts paying health bills.

“In the long run, it may not be the lowest cost plan,” said O’Donnell. “Just because a plan is $50 a month, it [still] may come with a deductible of $4,000.”

Student workers are also being affected by the new law, as it has led the university’s human resources department to look more into employees’ primary relationship with the university and set limits to the amount of hours students can work.

Helena Rodrigues, director of HR strategy and planning, said the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act requires an employer to provide the same health care benefits to any employee who works more than 30 hours a week.

Under the employer mandate, the UA can face penalties if it doesn’t provide the same benefits to all full time employees. Though the employee mandate doesn’t go into effect until January 2015, the UA has sought legal counsel while making changes to employment policies.

While the UA considers student workers, part-time employees and temporary employees non-benefit eligible, the law does not make the same distinctions. This has led the UA to look at how many hours students are working and question what their primary relationship is to the institution.

Rodrigues said HR is looking at setting a yearly average of 27 hours per week for students who are enrolled in at least six units.

Some of the questions raised are whether working more than 20 hours a week hurts graduate students’ time that it takes them to obtain their degree and whether increasing that time leads to more student loan debt.

“It’s not a question of affordability,” Rodrigues said. “But in the meantime, to ensure that we don’t have a situation where we have a lot of departments incurring additional costs to be able to provide insurance to students, we’re trying to minimize that.”

– Follow Stephanie Casanova @_scasanova_

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