The United States public is practically split down the middle when it comes to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” according to a recent Gallup poll. The act’s constitutionality was upheld on June 28 by the Supreme Court, forcing the medical and health insurance industries to finally confront what impact the new changes will have on the country. But college students should expect to feel the consequences of the reform whether they are already on a health insurance plan or not.
On Sept. 23, one of the most important aspects of the new law for college students will go into effect. The stipulation allows people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they reach the age of 26, at which time they will have to purchase and maintain their own health plan.
“There are a lot of positive impacts for students [as a result of the bill],” said Megan Pabian, who works for UCF Health Services as coordinator of university relations and public affairs. “Especially if they’re graduating, as now they can jump onto their parent’s plan to save money.”
If students or their parents don’t already have a plan, Pabian notes that UCF offers a student-oriented plan that can be the best option for those with funds that may have already been depleted by student loans and tuition fees. In addition to standard coverage, the plan covers students if they travel back home within the country or if they travel abroad for classes.
“Especially for students who don’t have insurance through their parents, we are the best option they could get,” Pabian said. “Now [they] shouldn’t have to choose between eating or going to a doctor for help.”
According to Health Services, one out of four UCF students doesn’t have a health insurance plan. Jason Weiss, a senior studying environmental engineering, plans to look into the health care coverage UCF offers, as both of his parents recently lost their health care coverage. Weiss said other health care plans he’s looked into aren’t as affordable as what UCF offers, which he thinks is partly because of his age and demographic.
“At our age, we are statistically shown to be more risky people. They wouldn’t cover us as much because of car accidents and the like,” Weiss said.
Matt Demma, a junior majoring in political science, plans to stay on his parents’ plan as long as he can and suggests that other students do the same.
“It depends if you’re the one who’s going to party every night. I would think it’s pretty important for most students [to be on a plan],” Demma said. “The problem is, it’s almost just like car insurance. People our age have to pay more, bigger premiums because we’re seen as being more prone to danger.”
Weiss adds that for most college students, health insurance is an extra expense that sometimes can’t be afforded.
“You have some students who go to college because their parents can afford to send them to college,” Weiss said. “But you have a lot of other students taking out loans to go to school or who work their way through school. For the average student like them, it can be pretty costly to pursue it.”
But instead of students, health insurance companies are actually footing the bill, thanks to several new reforms the law puts into place. Under the act, no health care provider can deny coverage to a patient with a pre-existing condition. Also, 80 to 85 percent of all health care premiums must be used for medical care costs, depending on the size of the plan, forcing companies to look elsewhere to cover administrative costs.
Pabian said that health insurance premiums used to be astronomical, but in the future, companies will be forced to provide more extensive coverage at cheaper, more affordable rates, even if it’s at a higher risk for themselves.
“Preventative services are now covered as well, including immunization for students traveling abroad,” Pabian said. “This is a huge incentive for students to get these vaccinations.”
UCF is part of a state-wide consortium of universities, including Florida International University and the University of North Florida, that collaborate to find the best health care plan for students. Every four years, the schools ask for bids from insurance companies and select the one that provides the best coverage for students at the best cost. The consortium recently signed on with United Healthcare. Pabian said that this consortium shielded UCF from most of the rising costs for university health programs that accompanied the bill, pointing to the fact that the school’s annual premium rose less than $200, from $1,916 to $2,086, this past year.
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