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New Health Care Law Goes Into Effect in October. What's In It For Students

Sep 16, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act is going into effect this fall—right around the time the new semester starts. This means college students and graduates will face important decisions this fall—not just about their academic and career choices, but about their health insurance as well.

Young people have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans up to the age of 26 since 2010. But there’s a lot more in store in 2014—and it’s not too early to start preparing now. Here are a few things to expect with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act right around the corner.

The individual mandate

This is perhaps the most widely known part of the Affordable Care Act—and it’s there to ensure that everyone, not just the people who need it most, sign up for health insurance. In 2014, you will have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1% of your yearly income if you go without coverage for more than 90 days—and that penalty will go up in the future. That said, if you qualify, you may be able to get help from the federal government to pay for health insurance coverage.

Catastrophic coverage won’t go away completely

In 2014, new standards for health insurance plans may make high-deductible, “catastrophic” health plans a thing of the past—as all health insurance plans must comply with certain coverage requirements set by the federal government. However, there will still be catastrophic coverage options for people under 30 in 2014.

Short-term coverage won’t be enough

Some recent graduates and students use short-term health insurance plans to fill coverage gaps between graduation and a job that provides insurance. In 2014, those short-term plans won’t disappear completely—but they won’t meet the requirements for basic coverage set by the Affordable Car Act. This means that if you have only a short-term insurance plan for more than 90 days, you could still see a penalty on your taxes in 2014.

You can’t be turned away for a pre-existing condition

Currently, it is already illegal for health insurance companies to turn away children with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance policies. In 2014, that protection will extend to adults as well.

Your insurance company will be more reliable

Part of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate includes cracking down on what the government calls “frivolous” cancelations. Insurance companies will no longer be able to cancel your policy just because you made a mistake on your insurance application, or left out information that isn’t relevant to your health. 

Your college health insurance coverage may (or may not) change

If your health insurance plan was sold to you on or before December 31, 2014, it will qualify as minimum essential coverage. That’s not the case for health plans bought after that date—they have to apply in order to qualify.

College students can still apply for insurance—and subsidies—on the exchange

College students can still buy health insurance on an exchange, even if they qualify to stay on their parents’ plans or have a health plan available at their traditional or accredited online college. That’s good news, because if you buy through an exchange, you are eligible for tax credits—not the case if you buy your college’s insurance.

In 2014, college students will have more options than they did before in terms of purchasing new insurance. The terms of coverage may be slightly better as well. Coverage may get more expensive—as catastrophic coverage becomes more difficult to find, especially for older students. But with government subsidies, hopefully purchasing individual insurance won’t present an undue burden of cost to many students.


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