New Affordable Care Act offers options for students

By Elsa Schmitz

opinion editor

[email protected]


The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” opens enrollment for its health insurance marketplace on Oct. 1, and will be fully enacted this coming January.

While this act will affect people from many different backgrounds, it is important for students to be aware of what exactly will be changing for them in terms of insurance options and benefits. Many reforms have already been enacted as far back as 2010.

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. The following year was full of changes, including the introduction of a new Patient’s Bill of Rights. This bill mandated changes to coverage, costs and care for those who have insurance. Some of these changes include the ability for young adults to be covered under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, coverage for preventative care at no cost to the patient and requires insurance companies to publicly justify any premium increases.

In 2011 and 2012, the Affordable Care Act required that at least 85 percent of all premium dollars collected by insurance was spent on health care services and quality improvement, according to information obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Perhaps the most important date that impacts college students across the nation is the opening of enrollment for the health insurance marketplace beginning on Oct. 1. This health insurance marketplace allows users to shop around for insurance coverage that most fits them. This impacts college students because while the Affordable Care Act now allows students to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, there are now more options for more coverage based on student’s situations. This variety of options of alternative affordable coverage is helpful, especially when a student might not have insurance through a parent.

There are many options ranging from low-income insurance options to catastrophic insurance plans. Many tools are available for users to determine which insurance fits them best, such as the need calculator located at

Students may have already seen the effects of the Affordable Healthcare Act on their lives. One of the most prominent effects is probably the ability for a student or young adult to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. This is helpful, especially for full-time students who have no job for income, and for recent graduates who are in the process of finding a job.

Students at EWU will not see an immediate impact on their student health coverage from the Affordable Care Act, according to Rockwood Clinic’s Eastern Washington University student health coordinator Carol Gahl. “The contract that we have with Eastern runs until August, so for the next couple of quarters everyone’s going to have that benefit here.” Gahl said.

“We’ll have to see what happens after January, kind of nationally what’s happening, whether or not the Affordable Care Act will recognize this plan as what’s considered an essential health care.” said Gahl.

“Hopefully we’ll start getting more information after the first of the year, as more things start trickling in.”

The Affordable Care Act will not affect student health coverage, but if students were to get their own insurance, or a new insurance from the marketplace, then the coverage of services not covered through student health would change.

Students should definitely take advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, as it allows them to afford and choose health care insurance that will allow them to take care of themselves. While student health covers many basic health needs, it would be beneficial for students to find affordable coverage for themselves in the case that something happens and they find themselves needing more expensive care.