Affordable Care Act, shutdown affect students

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters following a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

With a continuing government shutdown and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, many college students are asking one question – what does this have to do with me?

For Sydney Verrier, freshman from Anchorage, Alaska, both topics have everything to do with her. Verrier’s father is a chief master sergeant in the Air National Guard and has worked for the military for 30 years. She is afraid her father will be forced to retire if he is left unpaid during the shut down.

Although lawmakers recently voted to continue pay for troops, 400,000 civilian workers will still be furloughed.

“The day and age we live in, anything is disposable and the concern for human life and well-being doesn’t exist anymore,” Verrier said. “I just wish they could agree on Obamacare, whether it’s a yes or a no – I don’t care.”

How did it happen?

Because Congress could not pass a spending bill both parties agreed on, the government was forced to shut down. The House of Representatives, which is run by a Republican majority, presented a bill that did not fund the Affordable Care Act.

Since the proposed bill did not support the new healthcare legislation, the government was shut down. This will end as soon as President Barack Obama can sign a spending bill.

There have been 17 shutdowns since 1977, the longest was 21 days.

How does shutdown affect me?

College students might not see many personal consequences for a there are a few things that will change in education and everyday life:

• Pell Grants and federal student loans will not be affected by the shut down because they are funded through long-term appropriations.

• Although the grants will stay the same, there may not be anyone there to answer questions. Only 138 employees will be left after others are furloughed to guide the program.

• If the shutdown lasts more than a week, federal funding to universities could be affected.

• Students will still be able to receive and send mail since the U.S. Postal Service functions as a business.

• Planning a trip to Land Between the Lakes Recreational Area will be impossible for a while – the gates are closed to any LBL service and the website is not being updated.

• Food safety inspections will continue, but any investigations into violations of the Food and Drug Administration will go unchecked.

• Veterans may be backed into a corner if the shutdown continues – the Department of Veterans Affairs will run out of money in late October for more than 3.6 million veterans.

• All active-duty military will still be paid.

• Whitehouse.gov, as well as other government websites, are down temporarily. This includes the president’s College Scorecard page.

• The National Institutes of Health will have to stop giving grants for research projects. This shouldn’t affect most schools, however, because they recently finished a grant cycle.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect me?

The legislation, enacted in March 2013, is meant to expand health coverage and lower costs for some consumers. In 2012, an estimated 55 million Americans under 65 years old were uninsured, according to a Congressional Budget Office report.

Today, there are 17 million uninsured Americans between the ages of 18 and 34. Those who do not buy into the federal healthcare system or their own programs will be forced to pay $95 or 1 percent of their income.

Students on their parents’ plan can stay on that plan until the age of 26. School plans also offer coverage for most medical situations, although students have to pay for it themselves.

If a student cannot afford insurance, they may qualify for some Medicaid benefits, although it would have lower premiums it requires the pay of nearly all medical costs up to a certain point.

Story by Lexy Gross, Editor-in-Chief. Follow her on Twitter @lexygross.