Healthy choices

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As a college student, am I required to have health insurance?

Everyone in the U.S. is worried about health insurance. You should not consider being without coverage, even if it is an option. The cost of medical care without insurance could end your education. Realize you will be exposed to a lot more health issues in college than at home. Let us evaluate options for student health coverage.

Most colleges offer student health plans that are more affordable than private insurance. Your student plan covers you under current U.S. health care law and you will not have to pay for treatment. You can apply for additional coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace however it would be advisable to check costs.

Did you know the majority of colleges will not accept you if you do not have health insurance or sign up for one of their plans? Some will automatically enroll you onto their insurance plans, rolling the premium into your tuition fees. To change this, you need to meet the college’s semester deadline and show proof of existing coverage.

Under Obamacare, dependents can remain on their parents’ private or employer-sponsored health insurance until the age of 26. If you live in the same state as your parents, you can easily be added during Open Enrollment. Living in a different state involves applying for your own policy, which can be done through the college. You need to check what your parents’ coverage permits with regards to children living out of state.

Many colleges have their own clinics and health care services, some charge a nominal fee and others are free. These will generally only cover basic out-patient care and some services such as counseling or contraception. One of the top ten reasons students visit health services includes accidents. Health insurance is certainly needed for these more serious conditions and treatment. Without it you could face a bill that dwarfs your tuition.

Under college Student Health Insurance Plans, the school pays the claims instead of a third-party insurance company. You may not get the full range of benefits, so it pays to check what is actually covered. People are often shocked to learn the limitation of their coverage. Without a doctor’s prescription, most durable medical equipment like wheelchairs or even crutches are often excluded.

If you are no longer a dependent of your parents or older than 26, you will be required to have your own health insurance. Premiums will be based on your income and financial status, which may not be that stable for a student. Each state has a number of coverage options and levels. With a private plan, you will be eligible for Federal tax credits to offset some of the insurance costs.

Under current health care laws, you must have qualifying health insurance or pay a penalty. There is no special exemption for students from the legal requirement to have health insurance.

I’ve been asked a lot for my view on American healthcare. Well, “It would be a good idea,” to quote Gandhi… Paul Farmer.

Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.