Failure of the House of Representatives to pass an official budget means that the government is being “shut down.” Why did this happen?
Indecision and failure to pass a budget is largely due to partisan division over the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This act was signed into law in March 2010 by President Barack Obama and was found to be constitutionally sound by the US Supreme Court in 2012. The goal of the ACA, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” is to ensure that preventative health care is “more accessible and affordable” for Americans who do not receive health insurance through work or school.
On Sept. 30, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a proposal which would postpone implementation of the ACA’s “individual mandate,” requiring every American to purchase health insurance. The Democrat-led Senate then turned down the plan, imploring the House to pass a budget that did not contain provisions to undermine the ACA. The stalemate over passing a budget for the 2014 fiscal year (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30) has caused suspension of many functions of government, from NASA to processing paperwork.
The government shutdown does not affect all aspects of government in the same way. The US Postal Service will continue operations, and Social Security will continue to function. The members of the House and Senate will continue to be paid; legislation was passed on Monday to continue paying working troops.
However, any federal employees who do not work in critical services are on furlough or a leave of absence, and many governmental organizations have been suspended due to lack of funding.
“My aunt works for NASA and due to the shutdown one of the ways I’m affected is that I have a much more difficult time getting in touch with her,” said freshman Anthony Dellamura. “Her phone number was transferred onto a work cell that was taken during the shutdown, so now it’s much more difficult to keep in contact.”
Junior Brian Drake’s father’s job requires constant travel, but “with the government shutdown, the funding is no longer available, leaving him with a job but no paycheck.” Since the House failed to pass funding for Veterans Affairs Oct. 1, veterans like Drake’s father will not be receiving their benefits. However, Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics will remain in operation.
Other students are struggling to make ends meet as well. Junior Rachael Mays works as a grocery bagger at the Little Creek Amphibious Base Commissary, which will be closing until the government is opened again.
“[The shutdown] won’t affect me as much as it will the older workers, because I’m just a student and I work weekends, but I’m not going to be able to pay for certain things,” said Mays. “But the older workers might have to find other jobs or rely on their spouses for income.”
Meanwhile, the Health Insurance Marketplace opened on Oct. 1, allowing people who may not have been able to obtain insurance through work or school a chance to compare coverage from different companies.
As a college student there are a lot of questions about ACA, what it means and how it affects students. Under ACA, most Americans are required to have health insurance or will be penalized with fees each year. That being said, there are many options for students to comply with the law.
Under ACA, students can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26. If this is not a feasible option for students, Virginia Wesleyan offers a health insurance plan through the health care company Hulse/QM.
The law makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage or raise your premiums due to pre-existing conditions, in addition to eliminating all insurance caps. But because of the prohibition of capping insurance, many insurance plans will have to raise their premiums. The argument is between those who say that limited benefit insurance plans do not adequately cover health expenses and those who say that over-coverage equals overspending.
While the ACA barrels full-steam ahead with the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace, all eyes will be on the House and Senate, awaiting a budget and decisive bipartisan action.