UCC Mainstream Online

Health care changes for students

Obamacare implementation time line
Brad Jackson / Mainstream
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

The Affordable Care Act, which was passed on March 23, 2010, contains comprehensive health care reforms designed to provide affordable health insurance to all Americans. The law contains many provisions designed specifically to help students, young adults and persons on low income purchase quality health care.

Some of the provisions include an extension of coverage for young adults, allowing them to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, eliminating lifetime limits on coverage and prohibiting discrimination of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The ACA also requires that all Americans purchase health insurance, referred to by the ACA as “minimum essential coverage.”

Changes have also been proposed to the ACA that may lead to health insurance that is self-funded by colleges and universities to qualify as minimum essential coverage. Within self-funded plans, colleges finance student health care with their own funds, assuming the financial risk of insurance while also gaining control over the type of benefits offered. These plans allow students to purchase insurance directly through their schools instead of from an independent company.

The changes were proposed on Jan. 30 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, most health insurance plans offered through colleges do not meet the requirements of the ACA. Under the ACA, all Americans are required to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face penalties, including fines. Students may have to purchase insurance through an independent company if health insurance is not offered through schools.

Some health care advocates have expressed concern that the proposed change may mean that more schools will begin to self-fund their student health insurance plans, rather than running them through outside companies to avoid ACA requirements. Only about 30 colleges and universities in the U.S. currently self-fund their plans, according to HHS.

No health insurance plans are currently offered through UCC. In the past, UCC offered voluntary insurance which was extended through American Insurance. Currently, students pay a $5 mandatory student insurance fee which is included in tuition. This fee only covers accidents that happen on campus on supervised college field trips.

According to Vice President Lynn Moore, UCC does not offer self-funded insurance because “self-insuring health insurance is very costly.”

Many schools around the country who do not self-fund insurance, including UCC, have had plans pulled as the companies who offer these plans attempt to rewrite them to comply with the ACA. According to Student Life Coordinator Marjan Coester, UCC is trying to identify what companies are offering health insurance to colleges in Oregon and is researching what options are available to students and colleges.

According to Coester, about 30 to 50 students were signed up for insurance through UCC when health insurance was still offered. About 700 community college students throughout Oregon are signed up for health insurance through their schools.

The new changes may lead to more companies offering voluntary insurance plans to colleges and universities, providing more options to students and their families.