Despite the sweeping changes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will bring to health insurance policies in the United States, the effect it will have on Bowdoin remain unclear.

"As [Health and Human Services] and others release their regulations, Bowdoin will have to review its plan. But at this point we are still digesting the new law," said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer Katy Longley.

Despite long-term uncertainties, it seems as though policies will not change for the coming school year.

"For next year, there will not be any impact," said Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes. "We will continue to offer the same student health insurance."

The historic act, signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, is expected to cost $940 billion over the next 10 years and will expand coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.

The requirement that all U.S. citizens and legal residents have health insurance is arguably the biggest change brought about by the bill. Those not insured by 2014 will have to pay annual fines of up to $695.

The expansion of Medicaid to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and increased taxes on so-called "Cadillac" health insurance plans, or those worth over $27,500, are also featured in the act.

Health insurance companies will also no longer be able to drop patients with preexisting conditions.

The College requires all students to have some form of health insurance, whether purchased through the school or independently. The College offers the Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan Gallagher Koster.

According to the company's Web site, the plan covers "hospital room and board, inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures, labs and x-rays, chemotherapy and radiation, inpatient and outpatient mental health services, physician office visits, consultant visits, ambulance, emergency care and prescription drugs."

Though the act will certainly have a great impact on many Americans, Hayes says things will not change too significantly for students at Bowdoin.

Said Hayes, "we will see no change in the plans either for what is going to be offered or what is covered" by Gallagher Koster.

The reform act, she said, "will not change how students get their health care here at Bowdoin College."

Though potential changes that will affect students are unlikely, there is a possibility that "Bowdoin's student health care insurance" may be impacted, said Hayes. These changes, however, are still unclear.

"The American College Health Association (ACHA) is reading through the policy and will be discussing how, if, and in what ways [the new policies] will impact college health," she said.

According to the ACHA Web site, advocacy efforts "have resulted in language in the bill that will preserve the ability of our colleges and universities to continue to provide our students with access to quality university sponsored health plans that so many of our students rely upon."

The act may affect the price the College will have to pay for its insurance plan, however. The ACHA Web site states that the affordability of college health insurance plans depends on colleges' abilities to qualify for the "group price." Because of the way in which group coverage is defined in the legislation, it is not clear whether or not college plans will continue to be group-rated.

Many of the policies of the new bill do not go into effect until 2014, giving health insurance providers and insurers time to analyze all of the changes.

"There is a lot to be worked out right now," said Hayes. "There are questions that are not answered or we are not sure of the answers."

One question that can be answered is one regarding those students covered by their parents' private insurance plans. As dependents, they will remain covered until they reach the age of 26, a measure enacted by the recent legislation. This change, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, will go into effect in six months.

According to Longley, "employees have a different plan than students," and this plan will undergo some changes due to the recent bill.

Because there is "very progressive health care law in Maine," she said, we "already had a lot of the provisions" that are prominent reforms brought about by the bill.

Though there are "mandated benefits in Maine and coverage for pre-existing conditions," the College will have to alter a few things here and there in the insurance that covers employees, according to Longley.

"We cover adult dependents that are in school under the age of 25. Now dependents don't have to be students and the age is now 26," she said.

Longley also said that the five million dollar "lifetime cap" in the College's plan must be changed.

"We have to remove the cap under Obama's plan," she said.

Like Hayes, Longley has questions about the implications of the bill on Bowdoin's future health insurance plan.

"The College is still trying to determine the effective date of the provisions," she said. "What we understand is that the law is effective January 1, 2011 for some of the changes but not all of them."

Moreover, because Bowdoin is self-insured, meaning it does not buy insurance but insures its own risk, further confusion may arise for the College and students.

The College is "not sure whether all of the provisions apply to self-insured plans," said Longley.

"We are waiting for a lot of the regulations to be promulgated [and] we have not yet determined the costs of the plan," she said.

Said Longley, "we are still working with counsel and waiting for guidance... We will monitor [the act] closely."

Both Hayes and Longley seem to be of the same mind in terms of the uncertainty of the reform's effects on campus.

"We just don't know," said Hayes. "It all depends on how the new law unravels."

Longley agreed. Her message for the Bowdoin community, at this point, was simple: "More to follow."