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Tackling Health Insurance Options While In College

Health care has been a hot topic in the news lately and you may ask yourself: what does that mean for me?  There have been large changes in health care options for young people and students in past couple of years, with more to come in 2014.  So for those of you who don’t have insurance that automatically covers you through your job, here are some ways that you can access care and insurance coverage right now:

Get on Your Parent’s Plan:

If you’re under 26 and your parents have health insurance, then look no further. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers are required to offer health insurance to children under the age of 26, regardless of marriage status or where you live. Currently, if you can receive health insurance through work, you aren’t eligible for dependent coverage, but starting in 2014, you can get on your parent’s plan even if your employer offers health insurance. In most cases, this will be the cheapest coverage available to you, so if you can, don’t hesitate to call up mom or dad.

School Health Plan:

Many colleges offer a student health insurance plan. Recent changes have required student health insurance plans to comply with existing regulations that apply to all other insurance.  This means that insurer’s will be barred from limiting the coverage they offer if you get really sick, they will offer women’s health care services like birth control without requiring extra out of pocket costs, and you cannot be denied for having a pre-existing condition if you’re under 19. Prices can vary by school, but it’s likely less than what you would spend finding good coverage for yourself – particularly with new requirements that insurers now spend a certain amount of your premiums on care, not profit.

Even if you already have insurance, your school likely has a health center where you can get check-ups and medicine if you’re sick. Be sure to take advantage of these resources since you’re already paying for them!

Alumni Health Insurance:

If you went to college and are a part of the Alumni Association, there’s a good chance you can get health insurance through them. This could be a good option since it’s often cheaper to be part of a group plan rather than buying individual insurance. Call your Alumni Association to find out and finally put that alumni card to good use.

Join a Group, Association, or Pre-existing Condition Plan:

Some organizations and groups offer health insurance as a benefit of membership. Your local Chamber of Commerce or even your state may offer a plan, particularly if you cannot find coverage because insurers deny you due to an existing illness. If you buy health insurance through these plans, you might even pay less and get better coverage than if you try and buy health insurance on your own.

Medicaid:

In some states, young adults are able to get Medicaid if they make below a certain amount. If you have kids or are expecting kids than there’s also a pretty good chance you’re eligible for some type of coverage. Starting in 2014, all people making under a certain amount will be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance, and depending on your state, eligible for Medicaid. So for example, if you work 20 hours a week at minimum wage, you’ll be eligible for Medicaid. Check with your state health department to find out what you’re eligible for now and the next few years.

Buy Your Own Plan:

Buying your own plan can be a bit tricky at times but having health insurance can save you thousands of dollars in health costs later on – and many days worth of productivity. In 2014, states will open Exchanges, which are online marketplaces for insurance. You can look up plans in one place, find all of the details about the plan (without any fine print), and possibly qualify for subsidies to help pay for insurance. In the meantime, use healthcare.gov to check out some of the major providers in your state, and see what options are available to you. When buying health insurance, though, make sure to read the fine print. Many plans labeled as “young adult” are often cheaper in premiums, but that’s because they have a high deductible. This means you’ll pay less each month, but you will have to pay possibly $5,000 or $6,000 if you go to the doctor or get sick before your health insurance will actually kick in.  In other words, it protects you against catastrophes but doesn’t help as much with typical medical expenses. Figure out what works for you.

About The Author

Today’s guest article comes from Brian Burrell. He is the State Outreach and Policy Coordinator for Young Invincibles. In the coming months, he will be providing an informative series on CheapScholar.org related to changes in the health care/insurance industry. So, stay tuned for more updates.  For more information on Young Invincibles, visit YoungInvincibles.org, like them on Facebook, or you can follow them on Twitter: @YI_Care.

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