Fiona Brady

A challenge to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare, will come before the Supreme Court for the third time this November, one week after the election. The death of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has brought the fate of the ACA into question, as the Trump Administration is pushing to confirm conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett prior to the election.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has centered his concerns about the Supreme Court vacancy around the issue of healthcare and many Democrats have argued the GOP wants to confirm a new justice to overturn the ACA come November.

If the Supreme Court were to strike down the ACA, the effects would be far-reaching. The plan was signed into law under the Obama Administration in 2010. It was designed to stabilize the healthcare market and make insurance coverage more accessible to low-income individuals and those with pre-existing medical conditions. But it also has a significant impact on the lives of young people.

How does the ACA impact young people?

The ACA allows young people to remain covered under their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26. More than 2.3 million young people gained health insurance coverage through this provision, according to a 2016 report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, UConn Law Professor Jon Cogan said people who have pre-existing conditions, which is estimated between 53.8 million and 133 million Americans, could be denied coverage. Many of those who get coverage under the Medicaid expansion, more than 10 million Americans, would also lose that coverage.

“In terms of the impact on students and young people, many of them will lose their insurance coverage,” said Cogan. “It would be a really terrible outcome for students who through no fault of their own got sick or injured.”

Students who are no longer covered under their parents’ plans would have to get their own coverage through a university policy or seek one out in the individual market if they are able to afford it.

“It could be very harmful to [students] both physically, in terms of their ability to get the care, and financially, in terms of their ability to afford care or absorb the debt of affording care,” said Cogan.

How does this apply to Connecticut?

Fortunately for Connecticut college students, there is a state law in place that permits people ages 19 to 25 to stay on their parent’s health insurance if the ACA were to go away. There are a few restrictions, however. The state law applies only to fully insured plans, so if a student’s parents were covered through a self-insured plan they would lose their access to health insurance.

Jenna Carlesso, a healthcare reporter at the CT Mirror, provided some insight into the Affordable Care Act and how it pertains specifically to Connecticut.

Connecticut established a statewide insurance exchange, Access Health CT, after the ACA was passed. The exchange allows people to purchase an insurance plan through the state if they do not have access to employer-based healthcare.

“It’s important if you have an entry-level job that may not offer you health insurance, a part-time job, or a job in a small business,” Carlesso said. “The exchange gives people another option to obtain healthcare.”

Approximately 100,000 people in Connecticut buy their health insurance plans through the state exchange. Nearly 8,000 of those people are ages 19 to 25.

Connecticut’s exchange would be dismantled if the ACA is taken away, Carlesso said.

“This is important because young adults have a higher rate of being uninsured than any other group,” said Carlesso. “They’ve benefited from the ACA, from the Medicaid expansion and the exchange.”

Fiona Brady is a University of Connecticut journalism and political science major and an aspiring broadcast journalist. 

This article first appeared in Crash Course: Election 2020, a weekly newsletter produced by UConn Journalism students under the guidance of UConn Journalism Associate Professor Marie K. Shanahan. She is also a member of the Connecticut Mirror board of directors. 

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