Obamacare affects students' insurance needs
Published: Monday, November 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, November 4, 2013 18:11
Applications for health care coverage are consistently being pushed further and further from Americans’ to-do lists with the healthcare enrollment deadline now extended until March. It is easy—and tempting—for students to forget about their health care responsibilities completely, but doing so will leave students open to penalty fines and lack of health protection.
Students under the age of 26 are still eligible for coverage under their parents’ plans. But those who are not enrolled under a parental insurance umbrella are responsible for registering for their own health care plans, or paying the penalties for neglecting to do so.
The introductory fine for not enrolling in a basic insurance plan is $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s income, whichever is higher. The fine will continue to increase each year the individual neglects to purchase health insurance, according to the U.S. Government Healthcare website, HealthCare.gov.
To avoid incurring the fine, eligible students need to become proactive in securing their own insurance coverage.
“We did notify any part-time employees—including student workers—as to their options,” said Jeff Hankins, vice president of the A-State system. “From the student standpoint we notified them if they were part-time workers, otherwise we took no action.”
The A-State Student Health Center offers its own health care coverage option for students through the Arkansas Student Accident & Sickness Plan. Most part- to full-time student (enrolled in at least six credit hours) can qualify for enrollment in health care through this plan.
“We usually promote the plan in August and September when open enrollment is,” Victoria Williams, APRN director of the Student Health Center, said. The next open enrollment deadline is Feb. 14 for the spring/summer terms. “For students, this gives them another option,” Williams said.
Enrollment information is available at www.studentinsurance.com.
Those wanting to go through the state exchange can visit the U.S. Government healthcare website, HealthCare.gov, to find local healthcare plans. Plan availability is based upon county, and typically people living in counties with larger populations will have more options, according to Williams.
For instance, Jonesboro (Craighead County) residents have 17 insurance plans from which to choose. Residents of Little Rock (specifically Pulaski County) have 41 insurance options.
Admittedly, the government website has been experiencing a few much-publicized setbacks. Williams said even in light of the hurdles facing the database uploading, students should investigate their options and the process to better familiarize themselves with it for when open registration begins again.
Coverage purchased under the various healthcare plans can range from “Catastrophic,” which covers less than 60 percent of total healthcare costs incurred by an individual, to “Bronze,” “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum,” which covers 90 percent of the total average cost of healthcare, according to HealthCare.gov.
In Craighead County, monthly premiums can range from a little more than $150 for Catastrophic coverage to almost $350 for Gold Premier Plus.
“The good thing is, these rates can’t change based on pre-existing conditions,” Williams said. All insurance costs publicized through the government website remain constant even if an applicant has diabetes, asthma or a heart weakness.
Individuals with yearly incomes of less than $46,000 can qualify for lower rates, according to HealthCare.gov.
Williams said even if students do not buy insurance right away, it would still be a good idea to look at the website and see which example would work best for them.