Most Harvard Students 'Insulated' from Potential Obamacare Repeal

Harvard University Health Services provides medical care to University affiliates.
Harvard undergraduates will likely remain “insulated” from potential changes in federal healthcare policy, according to University Health Services Director Paul J. Barreira.

Since its signing in 2010, Republican lawmakers across the United States have vowed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, which currently provides millions of Americans—and more than 200,000 Massachusetts residents—with health insurance.

In January, Republican lawmakers voted in favor of a budget resolution that instructs committees in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to work towards repealing large parts of the bill. Later that month, Trump signed an executive order giving various federal agencies broad powers to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Although Barreira said he is unsure how many Harvard students are insured under the program, he estimated that 60 percent of undergraduates waived health insurance through Harvard’s Student Health Insurance Plan, meaning they are insured through their parents’ plans. According to Barreira, only students who both waived Harvard’s insurance and have parents covered through the Affordable Care Act will be affected in the event of a repeal.

However, even if students covered under Affordable Care Act lose their insurance, Barreira said their care at Harvard would likely not change. He added that Harvard’s student health fee, which all full-time undergraduates are required to pay, covers most services provided through HUHS. Specifically, the fee covers 24-hour urgent care, primary care, mental health services, physical therapy, and surgery, all with no copay.


“Your student health fee pays for the care that you get here and for most of the health care you get,” Barreira said. “The Affordable Care Act wouldn’t change that.”

Benjamin D. Sommers, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a former advisor to former President Barack Obama, agreed that Harvard students would likely suffer little if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Sommers said that a Massachusetts-specific policy—a health care reform law passed in 2006—insured most state residents before the Affordable Care Act came into effect. He added that Massachusetts’s own health insurance program is unlikely to change regardless of federal policy.

“Overall, younger adults and people in Massachusetts are fairly insulated from some of the worst potential effects of a repeal. Coverage for people in other states is much more at risk,” Sommers said.

UHS spokesperson Lara Cameron said that even in a worst-case scenario, all Harvard students can enroll in Harvard’s own insurance plan, administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“Students may enroll in the Harvard University Student Health Insurance Plan due to a qualifying life changing event (such as loss of other insurance coverage),” Cameron wrote in an emailed statement. The Student Health Insurance Plan costs $2,630 for two terms.

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

—Staff writer Dianne Lee can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @diannelee_