Aug 30, 2012 (Marketwire via COMTEX) --Many of today's college students stand to benefit from the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), but provisions of the law coming into effect this year may actually reduce the number of coverage options available for some students. In response, eHealthInsurance (NASDAQ: EHTH), America's first and largest health insurance exchange, has published its top seven consumer health insurance tips for college students in 2012.
A popular provision of the ACA that took effect in 2010 allowed college students and other young adults under the age of 26 to retain coverage under their parents' health insurance policies, regardless of their school enrollment or dependent status. As a result, the number of uninsured young Americans has dropped significantly since 20101.
However, beginning this year, school-sponsored health insurance plans are undergoing changes intended to bring them into compliance with federal health reform legislation. Historically, many of these plans set strict dollar caps on students' medical care, limiting coverage on a per-diagnosis or per-year basis. These limits are now being raised and will be phased out entirely in 2014. As a result of expanding coverage, however, the premiums charged for some school-sponsored plans may increase in 2012, potentially taking school-sponsored plans off the table for some students.
A recent 2012 provision of the ACA has also expanded coverage for women's and reproductive health care. Beginning on August 1, 2012, all health insurance plans are required to provide broader coverage for women's health services, at no out-of-pocket cost to the enrollee. This includes coverage for most prescription birth control methods. As a result, some religiously-affiliated schools have chosen to drop their school-sponsored plans for the 2012-2013 academic year.
With these changes in mind, eHealthInsurance has prepared an updated series of health insurance tips for college students and their parents:
eHealthInsurance Top Seven Health Insurance Tips for College Students
1. Know your options, and don't wait to get coverage. Many colleges and universities require you to have health insurance before you can enroll in classes, which means that going uninsured may complicate your enrollment. It's never a good idea to wait until you're sick before you look for coverage; you may be too late to avoid serious financial consequences. So take a few minutes to get familiar with your options and compare costs and benefits. Your options may include:
- Staying on Mom and Dad's plan (until your 26th birthday)
- Buying your own individual health insurance plan
- Enrolling in a school-sponsored plan
- Getting coverage through an employer
- Enrolling in a government-sponsored coverage option
2. Consider alternatives to staying on Mom and Dad's plan. If you're going to school in another state, coverage under a parent's plan may not be a good idea. Many health insurance plans only provide the highest level of coverage when you use their network of preferred doctors and hospitals. Those networks don't always extend out of state. Even if you're studying in-state, you should get quotes for individual plans and compare that to how much it costs to stay on or enroll in your parents' health insurance plan. You may be able to find more affordable coverage with benefits that still meet your needs.
3. Read the fine print on some school-sponsored health plans. While coverage under many school plans is improving as a result of the health reform law, many of these plans still place dollar caps on your coverage. A serious injury or illness that puts you in the hospital could burn through your coverage quickly, leaving you or your parents with big bills. Some school-sponsored plans may also require you to receive most or all of your medical care on campus, or through the student medical center, which may not be an option when you're at home.
4. Understand the benefits (and risks) of buying coverage on your own. Check out your individual health insurance options, especially if you're going to school in a different state and your parents' plan won't cover you. Work with a licensed agent like eHealthInsurance.com to compare quotes. As a result of the health reform law, individual plans now provide more robust benefits and access to more preventive care at no out-of-pocket cost. Depending on where you live, your health history, and what kind of coverage you want, you may find some affordable options -- Mom and Dad may even help you cover the premiums. But be aware that you can still be turned down for individual coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition.
5. Consider non-school-sponsored "student" plans. These plans may be especially attractive for students who are attending school in a different state or who plan to travel back and forth a lot. Your benefits and coverage levels typically won't change when you travel from one state to another (international coverage may even be available), and you may have the option to pay up-front for year-round coverage rather than pay month-to-month.
6. Be sure your health insurance plan covers school sports injuries. NCAA rules often require college athletes to have health insurance but they don't necessarily require your school to cover you. If you're still insured under your parent's health insurance plan, be aware that some plans may actually exclude coverage for college sports-related injuries. Make sure you understand how your coverage works before you hit the field.
7. Don't let yourself fall through the cracks as an older student. Thanks to the tough job market and economy, more and more older persons are going back to school. Undergraduates and graduate students age 26 and older do not qualify to stay on their parents' health insurance plans, even if they're in school full-time. The health care reform law limits that option to younger adults. So, if you're age 26 or older -- or if you're going to turn 26 in the middle of the academic year -- it's a good idea to explore other health insurance alternatives now.
1 Source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/149558/Significantly-Fewer-Year-Olds-Uninsured.aspx
Additional Consumer Resources:
eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH) is the parent company of eHealthInsurance, the nation's leading online source of health insurance for individuals, families and small businesses. Through the company's website, www.eHealthInsurance.com, consumers can get quotes from leading health insurance carriers, compare plans side by side, and apply for and purchase health insurance. eHealthInsurance offers thousands of individual, family and small business health plans underwritten by more than 180 of the nation's leading health insurance companies. eHealthInsurance is licensed to sell health insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, making it the ideal model of a successful, high-functioning health insurance exchange. Through the company's eHealthTechnology solution (www.eHealthTechnology.com), eHealth is also a leading provider of health insurance exchange technology. eHealthTechnology's exchange platform provides a suite of hosted e-commerce solutions that enable health plan providers, resellers and government entities to market and distribute products online. eHealth, Inc. also provides powerful online and pharmacy-based tools to help seniors navigate Medicare health insurance options, choose the right plan and enroll in select plans online through its wholly-owned subsidiary, PlanPrescriber.com (www.planprescriber.com) and through its Medicare website www.eHealthMedicare.com.
For more health insurance news and information, visit the eHealthInsurance consumer blog: Get Smart - Get Covered.
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