Affordable Care Act upheld, will have an effect on students

By Gwenn Barney

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is either a blessing or a curse… The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is either a blessing or a curse for college students, depending on who you ask.

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, which the Supreme Court upheld by a 5-4 vote on June 28, was most controversial because of a clause in the act that mandates that all Americans, with a variety of exceptions, purchase health care or face fines. Those who do not obtain the proper insurance will pay a fine of $695 per person or $2,085 per family.

The act faced a court challenge on the basis of whether the federal government had the power to place an individual mandate on Americans.

But Chief Justice John Roberts and the other four Court members who voted in favor of the bill determined the act is constitutionally sound, as fines for not purchasing the required health care should be considered a tax. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her secondary opinion that she believed the act to be constitutional under the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, as well.

Those who support the Supreme Court’s decision see multiple benefits for students in the Affordable Care Act. Pitt Democrats President Lara Sullivan named two of the most widely cited perks associated with the bill.

“Students can stay on their parents’ health insurance until 26 now,” Sullivan said. “That’s huge because we’re not necessarily finding a job right when we graduate. This gives us time to figure out what we’re doing and have good health insurance in the mean time.”

Sullivan added that another benefit for students is that Americans under 19 can no longer be denied coverage from insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition.

Pitt College Republicans President Casey Rankin and Pitt political science professor and Supreme Court expert Chris Bonneau also weighed in on potential pros and cons for students in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I think it hurts students who are graduating because most employers are less likely to hire due to the regulations and fines in [the Affordable Care Act],” Rankin said.

Rankin cited an online poll conducted by Forbes Magazine that asked small business owners “On the 2nd anniversary of Obamacare, where do you stand on this law?” According to Forbes contributor Jim Blasingame, 78 percent selected the pre-worded answer, “I don’t like it and think it should be repealed,” on the survey.

Bonneau dismissed possibilities such as the one Rankin proposed with small businesses, terming them “doomsday scenarios.”

“There’s no evidence for that,” Bonneau said. “There are a lot of doomsday scenarios that this will hurt businesses, but there is no evidence.”

Rather, Bonneau sees the Affordable Care Act as a catalyst for creating competition in the health insurance sector that will consequently drive down health insurance costs.

“When you have exchange [of health insurance] across states, you have more choices and with more choices you have better rates,” Bonneau said. “It’s like at the campus bookstore. When you can start to buy on Amazon, it lowers the cost of books in the campus bookstore.”

Political prognosticators also disagree on the sort of effect the Supreme Court’s decision may have on the upcoming presidential election, or whether it will have any effect at all.

Rankin believes that the Court’s decision spells out trouble for Obama’s re-election bid.

“It’s a helpful issue in the election for Republicans,” Rankin said. “If you oppose the Affordable Care Act, the only way to get rid of it is to elect Mitt Romney, even if you aren’t crazy about Romney.”

Rankin predicts that history will repeat from the 2010 election season this year. He said in 2010, a large number of Republicans won seats in the Congress, in part because of negative sentiment against the Affordable Care Act.

“I think this energizes the Republican base and anyone who opposes the health care law,” Rankin said.

Sullivan takes the contrary view to Rankin. She views the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law as an asset for the president in his re-election bid.

“People voted for Obama in 2008 based on his plan for health care. He promised the American people [during that election] that when in office, he would reform health care. This will only help his re-election campaign,” she said.

But Bonneau doesn’t foresee the Supreme Court’s decision as having much sway on the upcoming election one way or another.

“People who hated [the health care law] are going to vote against Obama and people who loved it are going to vote for him. What the Supreme Court said isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference,” he said. “Your views haven’t been changed just because the Supreme Court said it’s OK.”

“Health care is an issue in the election, but it’s a secondary issue to the economy and everything else,” Bonneau said.