Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner offers an update to students about health care insurance options in the following message:
At this point in your college career, you probably haven’t given much
thought to health insurance, but even if you’re still on your parents’
plan, you won’t be forever. Now is the time to start learning about your
options so you are prepared to make the best decision for your health
when the time comes.
Health care is changing, and you may need to buy your own coverage.
All Americans are now required to have health insurance coverage or they
may have to pay a penalty when they file their annual taxes. If you do
not have health insurance or expect to lose your health insurance in the
future, make sure you understand what options are available to you and
stay enrolled in coverage so you do not face this penalty.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides many options for health
coverage. Choosing the right plan is not always easy, so the
Pennsylvania Insurance Department wants to help you understand your
options so you know where you can find help.
Under the Affordable Care Act, you are allowed to stay on your
parents’ health plan until you turn 26. If your parent is covered by
their Pennsylvania employer’s group plan, you may have the option of
staying on that plan through age 29. However, if you are planning on
relocating to a different state or city after graduation, you may need
to consider a different plan if many of the health care providers in
your new area do not accept your plan. Make sure you do your research
when preparing to move.
If you need to look for your own coverage, the ACA provides a couple
of ways to do this. You may purchase coverage through the health
insurance marketplace. Information on this is available at HealthCare.gov.
Several different health plans are available through the marketplace,
and plans are available at different costs for different levels of
One advantage of using HealthCare.gov to buy your insurance is that
some individuals receive subsidies from the government to offset health
care costs. If you are considering buying your own insurance as a
student and are working part-time or not at all, chances are very good
you will qualify for a subsidy to help with your health insurance costs.
You may also buy health insurance on what is called the open market
where private insurance companies directly sell you individual health
plans. Many of these plans have the same or similar coverage as those
available on HealthCare.gov, but there could be different options
available on the private market. Government subsidies are not available on the open market, so you would be responsible for all costs associated with your plan.
To find out what individual health plans are available through the marketplace where you live, visit HealthCare.gov.
If you apply for coverage through HealthCare.gov (either directly or
through the help of a private company) and your income is too low for
subsidies, your application will be routed to determine your eligibility
for Medicaid health coverage.
Your school might also offer a student health plan that you are
eligible for while you are enrolled, and this plan may be the only
insurance accepted by your on-campus health center. Talk to your college
administration about this option, but make sure you understand the
services that are covered by this plan as well as the doctors you can
see off-campus before purchasing the insurance.
Governor Wolf and I have made consumer outreach and protection our
top priorities for the Insurance Department. You may contact our
Consumer Services Bureau if you have any insurance-related questions.
You can find them on our website, under Consumers,
or by calling 1-877-881-6388. We have added a shoppers’ guide for
health insurance on our website, to help consumers learn more about the
available health insurance options. The shoppers’ guide is available
under the Consumers tab, by clicking on “Health.”
Individuals called navigators are also available at no charge to help
you explore the different health coverage options. A health insurance
agent can also help you understand your options and direct you to a plan
that fits your needs. You can find a list of navigators and health
insurance agents in Pennsylvania on our Pennsylvania Insurance Department website (under Consumers, click on Find Insurance Professional).
I encourage you to take advantage of the options the ACA has made
available and use the resources listed above to help find the plan
that’s right for you.
Teresa D. Miller Insurance Commissioner Pennsylvania Insurance Department