Prior to healthcare reform in recent years, college students had limited options for health insurance coverage. Most insurers dropped children from their parents’ policies as soon as they reached the age of legal adulthood at 18. Thanks to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or alternately, Obamacare), however, there are now more options than ever before for young adults attending college and seeking health insurance coverage.
Naturally, the old options still apply. The majority of colleges and universities offer a student health plan through their campuses, and in most cases these policies qualify for minimum essential coverage under Obamacare, meaning that students who carry no other health coverage will not be penalized for a failure to comply with existing laws. However, students that elect to go this route will have to check in with their college or university to make sure that the student health plan provided meets the necessary criteria for minimum essential coverage in order to avoid penalties. Since many colleges include the student health plan as a mandatory portion of tuition expenses, students may as well take advantage of the coverage.
In addition, students that work may be eligible to receive coverage through policies provided by an employer. However, many students will instead elect to stay on a parent’s health insurance policy as long as possible. Under Obamacare, insurance providers are now required to continue allowing parents to include children on their health insurance policy up to the age of 26. This is not to say that parents are required to provide coverage for adult children, but the option exists and many families will likely take advantage of this option since it will provide for the best coverage at the best cost in most cases.
Of course, there will be instances in which students are unable to receive coverage via a parental policy, a job, or a qualifying student health plan. In such cases, they must seek out individual health insurance in order to comply with minimum essential coverage laws and avoid fines. Luckily, the health insurance marketplace has options designed to accommodate everyone, including those in low-income situations (as many college students are). All students have to do is sign up during the open enrollment period in order to find out what types of health coverage are available.
Students under the age of 19 may still be eligible for assistance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Those that don’t qualify due to their age still have options. Students that don’t work or that fall into certain low-income brackets may be exempt from having insurance, but this option only applies to those that file income tax returns, proving their low-income status. Students under the age of 30 may also be eligible to meet minimum essential coverage requirements by purchasing only catastrophic coverage. And of course, there are low-cost policies available to for those that don’t qualify for any special considerations but do not earn substantial income.
Unfortunately, there is no “student exemption” to help college students that would rather not pay for health insurance when they’re struggling to cover tuition, books, and other expenses related to seeking higher education. But because many students face financial hardship, there are certainly a variety of low-cost health insurance policies available to students willing to do their homework and understand their options.
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