As the administration recognizes, the most important ingredient to the success of Obamacare is getting young, healthy people to sign up for the exchanges. The administration, though, has made a mistake in allowing all young people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parent's health plan. To ensure the success of Obamacare, the administration should adjust how the law applies to students.
The administration should work with universities and make health insurance a part of the costs associated with attending the school full-time. Just like how students have to purchase a meal plan, students would also have to purchase a health plan. Students would be provided with the opportunity to purchase their health plan through the exchanges. If students did not want to purchase healthcare through the exchanges, they could opt out, but would have to provide proof of health insurance before being able to attend. Schools should also be able to opt out, but similar to places of employment, they should have to pay a penalty per student.
The tax credits should also be adjusted to apply to the dependent/independent status of the student. If the student files their taxes independently, then they could simply use the tax credits as is. If the student is still a dependent on their parent's taxes, the parents should be allowed to take a deduction based on a separate calculation that better reflects the financial assistance provided to their child for college costs.
With the Congressional Budget Office estimating roughly 7,000,000 people to use the exchanges to purchase healthcare through 2014, the administration is hoping for 2.4 million young, healthy Americans to be among those signing up for the exchanges. But with only 20% of 19 to 29-year-olds even aware of the health insurance marketplaces and large numbers of young men feeling too invincible to see the value of health insurance, it is unknown if the administration will be able to attract enough young, healthy people through outreach alone.
By revamping the student provision, Obamacare would have access to the 21.8 million people expecting to attend college in 2013 with 13.1 million of those future students being between the age of 18 to 24. And every year, brings a new batch of millions of new college freshman. With a single change in the law, the administration can guarantee that Obamacare will be financially sustainable.
Young people will also begin to learn the value of health insurance fresh out of high school. Especially after learning how beneficial it is to have contraception covered, to not have to worry about financial difficulties if they slip on some ice and break a bone, or if they get into an accident bicycling to class, or to just not have to question whether they are allowed to go to health services for their food poisoning after using their meal plan. On top of which, universities can work with students, particularly freshman, to seek out preventative care and help with reminders for yearly checkups. By partnering Obamacare with universities, we can establish for generations of young people the value and need for health insurance, and also ensure that Obamacare succeeds in the here and now.