» By PHILIP SPARN – psparn@my.apsu.edu

As the constant debate surrounding President Obama’s health-care reform law continues, many college students and young Americans are left wondering how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act affects them. While advocates of the law suggest the law offers young adults many benefits and protections, some critics believe this law will cause economic stress on the general economy and college students.

The new health care law, known by conservatives as “Obamacare,” allows most young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans up to age 26, even if they do not live with their parents, graduate from school or get married. The policy took effect for new insurance plans and plan renewals beginning on September 23, 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey shows since this provision’s enactment in September 2010, 2.5 million more young adults, age 19 to 25, are now covered by a private health insurance plan.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million more young adults don’t have to live with the fear and uncertainty of going without health insurance,” stated Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, in a recent press release. “Moms and dads around the country can breathe a little easier knowing their children are covered.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., believes the new health-care reform law could actually cause greater economic stress for college students and young adults than it will benefit them, due to the purported negative effects the new law will have on the overall federal and state economies.

Blackburn met with APSU President Tim Hall and the President’s Circle of Advisers Monday, April 2, at APSU and raised her concerns about the health-care reform law’s impact on higher education funding here in Tennessee.

“One of the lessons we learned from TennCare was that when you have a government centered health care plan, it gets funded first, and I worry the mandates this law puts on states might eat up state funds,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn points out the fact states have to balance their budgets and the health-care reform law increases federal mandates on the states by expanding Medicaid.

“States have to meet their mandates and balance their budgets at the same time and expanded mandates often force states to make cuts in discretionary spending programs like education and other programs we like to have,” Blackburn said.

State Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, member of the Tennessee House Education Committee, points out the actual fiscal impact of the law is uncertain and the legislature is receiving conflicting accounts about the law’s fiscal impact on Tennessee in particular.

“The notion that the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care] act would unnecessarily drain resources from higher education could be said about any program that goes unchecked, be it government or private,” Pitts said.

According to Pitts, the President’s health-care reform law sets in place a flexible framework of additional options for health coverage for all, which is sorely lacking in the current marketplace.

Pitts believes the Affordable Care Act’s provision to allow young adults, up to age 26, to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan is one of the best parts of the law. “Too often recent college students and graduates find they need a buffer between graduation and finding a job with actual benefits, so this law effectively addresses that concern,” Pitts said.

Brandon Puttbrese, communications director of the Tennessee Democratic Party, points out this law is already making a huge difference for thousands of college students here in Tennessee and millions around the nation.

“If this law was to be repealed or overturned, this would take away many benefits for young adults and college students,” said Puttbrese. “Because the Affordable Care Act affords direct benefits to those under 26, implements many patient protections and provides increased access to preventive care, young adults and college students have the most to gain from this law’s benefits.”

Blackburn did suggest she supports certain aspects of the new law, including the provisions for students and young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans and the elimination of insurance exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. However, she still wants the current law repealed or overturned.

“These provisions have had bi-partisan support in the past and continue to have support, but they have to be implemented with flexibility, not a mandate,” Blackburn said.

For more information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its impact on young adults, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov. TAS