It’s been a little more than a week since state-based health insurance marketplaces — one of the core components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — opened their virtual doors to the public, but students said they’ve remained insulated from the effects of the health care law.
Because a provision of the law that gives young people the option to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26 is already in effect, students are generally uninformed about the other changes and new options the legislation brings, said Samantha Zwerling, Student Government Association president. Zwerling and other student leaders met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan two weeks ago to work on ways to inform more students about the law.
“We need to do a better job as a university community preparing students for the real world,” Zwerling said. “Unfortunately, the real world includes things like co-pays and premiums.”
The university also requires every student to have some form of health insurance, so many students don’t think about their future health care plans. James Stephens, a senior computer science major who is covered under his parents’ health insurance plan, said he is not familiar with the intricacies of the legislation and hasn’t thought much about how it will affect him.
“I’m good. I’m covered,” Stephens said.
To raise awareness, Zwerling plans to reach out to seniors like Stephens who will graduate soon, as well as other student populations that could see a change as the legislation goes into effect, such as those who are financially independent or have unemployed parents and are unable to use their parents’ plan.
“Some of our students are definitely going to find themselves in a relationship with the marketplace,” said Sacared Bodison, University Health Center director.
Some students will soon become eligible for Medicaid, a government health plan for low-income individuals and families, which will expand to cover a larger population in this state in 2014. Another group of students, many of whom are in graduate school, use the health plan offered by the university. As long as those students stay in school, it’s unlikely much would change for them, Bodison said.
The university’s plan already covers many of the services required by the Affordable Care Act, such as preventive care and contraceptives. Another major part of the law, which prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, has been part of the university’s plan for years.
About 2,500 students use the university’s plan each year, though that number has been increasing slowly, likely because of the stuttering economy, Bodison said.
Even after the school renegotiates its health plan next year, Bodison does not expect students who use it to see any notable change in cost or coverage.
“I haven’t really thought about [insurance],” said Stephens, who is 22 and plans to go to graduate school after he graduates next fall. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Hopefully I’ll be a successful computer scientist by then. I know it’s something I need, but it’s not something I [think] about currently.”