Young college students are already on tight budgets, but now they are confronted with the Affordable Care Act that requires all Americans to be covered by qualified health plans beginning in 2014. While students are not exempt from the mandate, there are certain provisions in the law that can help them afford a healthcare plan that will meet the minimum coverage requirements.
Not only that, but there have been some changes to healthcare law that encourage students to graduate from college and take their time establishing themselves in their careers before worrying about paying for health insurance. These changes are designed to ensure young people are covered by comprehensive insurance instead of taking the risk of being uninsured.
What has Changed For Student Health Insurance?
Some student health insurance provisions in the Affordable Care Act have already taken effect, meaning college students have been benefiting from the health care reform law for several years. Some of these provisions apply to all Americans, but are of particular interest to college students because they are intended to lower the cost of premiums. The major changes of the Affordable Care Act that affect college students are:
- Young adults, including students, can stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26 years old. This is probably the biggest change in the law. Until health care reform was passed, young adults would be removed from their parents’ policies when they turned 19 years old. College students could stay on the plan until they turned 22, which is the expected age of graduation. This rule meant that young adults had to get their own student health insurance policies on very limited incomes, which wasn’t always possible. Usually, these students would simply go without insurance and take the risk of major injury or illness.
Now, however, college students can thank the Affordable Care Act for giving them more time to establish a reliable income before becoming responsible for their own insurance plans. In most cases, if the option is available to them, college students should stay on their parents’ plans for as long as possible.
- The ACA has eliminated annual maximums, meaning coverage will not end if students incur significant medical bills.
- Insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on direct medical care rather than on administrative costs.
- All plans sold on or after March 23, 2010 must abide by the student health insurance changes in health care reform law.
- Student health care centers located on college campuses must be included as provider choices for students.
- Health insurers are required to notify students who are under the age of 26 that they may be eligible to remain on their parents’ policies.
- College students may elect to purchase individual insurance policies through health insurance exchanges. They will likely qualify for federal premiums because their incomes are typically very low. In addition, catastrophic plans are available to people under 30, which have significantly lower premiums than other plans. If their incomes are low enough, they may also qualify for low- or no-cost insurance through Medicaid.
- The Affordable Care Act allows college students to enroll in any health plan available to them without the fear of being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
In the end, health care reform law has had a huge impact on student health insurance, mostly in a positive way. Students no longer have to choose between health insurance and other daily expenses. They can remain on their parents’ plans, purchase a low-cost catastrophic plan, or get covered under Medicaid, all of which are options that reduce their need to pay expensive premiums out of their own pockets. More information on student and affordable care can be found at CMS.gov website
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