Essential Information for Students about the Affordable Care Act
What is the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA, is a law intended to reform the health care system and make health insurance more affordable.
If you already have health insurance
Say you’ve already got health insurance. How does Affordable Care Act affect you? Well, there are a couple of ways:
- If you’re insured through a parent, you are eligible to continue to receive that coverage up until you’re 26 years old. That means that you’ve got more time to figure out the other Affordable Care Act provisions before you need to start arranging for your own coverage.
- Your insurance now covers the full cost of some services that are meant to prevent illness, including birth control, regardless of whether your plan includes a deductible, co-insurance or co-pays. These services include things like immunizations (like that pesky measles vaccine you have to get in order to attend college!), pap smears and birth control. Even if your insurance has a deductible, or an amount that you have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage kicks in, you won’t be charged for these services. Same thing goes for co-insurance (the percent of a service or visit that your insurance company normally makes you pay for) and co-pays (the amount you pay at your doctor’s front desk or when you pick up a medication at the pharmacy).
- If you’re a graduate teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA), and have the Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP), expect expanded coverage for preventive care. Otherwise, your benefits should remain mostly unchanged.
If you already have health insurance, you don’t need to do anything new or different, unless your insurance company says so. Be sure to read about the preventive services that are now fully covered by your plan, regardless of whether you have a deductible, co-insurance or co-pays.
If you don’t have health insurance
The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to purchase a health insurance plan, just like the government requires people who own a car to buy car insurance. Fortunately, if you’re a typical college student without much income, there are subsidies available to lower the cost of private insurance. If you are low-income, you might be eligible for public insurance, also known as Medicaid, for which you would not need to pay. As you apply for the insurance through an online exchange, you will be prompted to enter income and demographic information. The system will determine your eligibility for Medicaid and subsidies based on this information.
Eligibility information for Washington residents
If you are an uninsured resident of Washington State, you may have two options:
- Between November 15 and February 15, or anytime you experience a qualifying life event, purchase health insurance on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, a website set up to make finding a plan easier (and qualifying for a subsidy, if you’re eligible)
- Enroll in Washington State Medicaid at any point in the year (if you’re eligible). Medicaid is a health insurance program for low-income Washington residents. Read more about eligibility for Medicaid. You can apply for Medicaid online or in person at a state government office.
Curious as to how much you might be looking at paying for your health insurance? Here’s a special calculator that estimates your monthly payment for health insurance (though keep in mind that you might be eligible for Medicaid if you earn less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level).
If you enrolling in private insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, there are presently only three plans that are contracted with Hall Health Center and other parts of UW Medicine. They are:
- Molina Healthcare
- Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW-HIX)
If you find that you qualify for Medicaid (aka Washington Apple Health or DSHS), please be aware that we are contracted with these three plans:
- Amerigroup Washington (AMG)
- Molina Healthcare of Washington (MHC)
- Coordinated Care Corporation (CCC)
If you enroll in one of these plans, you can receive care, including mental health services, at Hall Health Center. We are not contracted with Community Health Plan of Washington and United Health Care Community Health or have limited services that we are able to provide.
Eligibility information for residents of other states
Depending on where you’re from, your home state may or may not have its own health insurance exchange (a website set up to facilitate finding and purchasing a health insurance plan). You can use the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace to get routed to your state’s exchange. If your state does not operate an exchange, you can use the federal government’s version to buy your plan.
Similarly, your state may not have opted to expand Medicaid eligibility. Read more here about the Medicaid expansion.
If you are a citizen of another country attending the University of Washington, you are required to enroll in the International Student Health Insurance Plan (ISHIP). You can read about your benefits here.
Other provisions of the Affordable Care Act
There are other elements of the Affordable Care Act that may affect you:
- Insurance companies can no longer reject you or charge you more because you have a medical condition
- If you don’t have health insurance at the end of 2014, you may have to pay a penalty (probably less than $100). Take a look at this graphic to find out if the penalty could apply to you.
Check out this cartoon-style infographic on what the Affordable Care Act means for young people.
The federal government’s HealthCare.gov website offers lots of resources to help you make sense of the Affordable Care Act.
Washington State’s Health Plan Finder is where you’ll purchase health insurance if you need to buy an individual (i.e., not employer- or parent-sponsored) plan and are a Washington resident.
If you’re not a Washington State resident, the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace can help you purchase a plan.
Authored by: Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Administration staff, November 2014