Student health: What the Affordable Care Act means to you as a college student

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act

On Thursday, June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court voted to uphold President Obama’s health care reform known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — originally passed in 2010. In his speech to the nation, the president outlined several changes this will have on our country. For college students, specifically those of you who are under age 26, this may make a huge difference in your health care. Here are some quick facts to keep you in the know.

The basics of the plan:

  1. Whether you’re an undergrad or graduate student, you’ll have the option to stay on your parents’ health insurance until you turn 26. Before the provision, many young Americans were kicked off their parents’ policy as soon as they turned 18 or when they received their bachelor’s. If you’ve had your own health insurance but are still under the age of 26, you may have some new options and you’ll want to check with your provider.
  2. Some colleges and universities may require students to have health insurance, whether it’s on their parents’ policies or through a private plan. For example, the University at Albany is putting into place a mandate that all students have health coverage for this upcoming fall 2012 semester. Unless a student falls into the “extreme circumstances” category, he/she will be required to have health coverage before enrolling in courses.
  3. Your insurance provider can’t deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. According to the Center for American Progress’ January 17, 2012, post titled, “The Affordable Care Act Is Already a Success,” “40,000 Americans with pre-existing medical conditions gained affordable coverage through the federally administered Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.” This is great news for young adults who may have been born with a heart condition or who beat a childhood cancer.
  4. The Huffington Post discusses the available tax credits for young adults in their June 28, 2012, post titled, “Health Care for Young Adults: What The Supreme Court Decision Means.” Tyler Kingkade writes, “According to the White House, the ACA ‘provides premium tax credits for young adults making up to roughly $43,000 a year to ensure that they can afford quality coverage in the new state-based Health Insurance Exchanges which start in 2014.’ If you don’t make enough money to buy your own insurance, you can qualify for the hardship waiver.”
  5. The ACA promises that on-campus health plans will be improving in the very near future. While this can be objective, the ACA says, “at a minimum, 80 percent to 85 percent of all premiums paid by policyholders must in turn be used to provide medical care.” Meaning, no wasted money for overhead costs, and students will see more affordable services being provided.
  6. The ACA will require all U.S. citizens to have health coverage by 2014. According to, in their June 28, 2012, post titled “Obamacare ruling paints different picture of health,” penalties for the uninsured will go up each year. “Not obtaining insurance in 2014 will cost a person $95 or 1% of his or her income, whichever is higher. In 2015, it’s $325, or 2% of income. For families, the penalty will be $285 per household or 1% of income, whichever is greater. By 2016, it goes up to $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income.”
  7. Though a large number of preventative services are covered by the ACA, there are some in particular that may be useful to young adults:
    • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
    • Depression screening
    • Type 2 diabetes screening
    • HIV screening, immunization vaccines
    • STI prevention counseling
    • Tobacco use screening and intervention
    • Cervical cancer screening and contraception coverage

Like all reforms, there are always going to be improvements that need to be made, and the outcome for this year’s presidential election will be a good indicator of how we can expect this reform to proceed — or be struck down. Until then, you can check out for more information on how the ACA will affect you.

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