Health care act extends coverage

One of the provisions of the Obama administration’s historic health care bill will allow young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26, a provision a GW professor and health care policy expert says will greatly affect college-aged students.

Currently, young people are not able to receive health care through their parents’ plan after the age of 22, putting a burden on many college-aged students – both at the undergraduate and graduate level – to find coverage on top of the rising cost of tuition.

“Private health insurance that the parents have will now include dependents up to the age of 26, so generally speaking students and young adults who’ve graduated from school may still be eligible for coverage under their parents’ policy,” said Leighton Ku, a professor of health policy at the School of Public Health and Health Services. “So that’s really great for students.”

Ku added that most of the students at GW he has come across are in favor of this portion of the health care legislation, adding that the rest are usually uninformed or misinformed about the bill’s effects.

This provision in the bill may also affect the 10 percent of GW students who purchase health insurance from the Student Health Service, said SHS Director Dr. Isabel Goldenberg. These students could now be covered under their parents’ health insurance, potentially making the SHS insurance plan unnecessary. SHS offers a health insurance plan for GW students at a cost of $1,614 for the entire calendar year, according to the SHS Web site.

Goldenberg said that students should assess all of their health care options before canceling their SHS plan, as it will be at least a few months before the age extension for dependents will take affect.

“Students should review their family’s policy if they are under age 26 and compare cost, benefits and access to health care to make an informed decision about the best coverage,” Goldenberg said in an e-mail, adding it may be a few months before she will be able to see any change in the number of students who utilize the SHS plan.

Matthew Feger, a graduate student in the College of Professional Studies who receives insurance from his parents’ policy, feels that the age extension for dependents will have a positive impact on students. “I think that provision is definitely a good one, seeing as the state of the economy is in pretty dire shape,” Feger said. “If that’s one less thing we have to worry about because we can still be on our parents’ health care while we’re looking for a good job.”

Joshua Altman, finance director for the College Democrats, said the provision has the widest-reaching effects for college students.

“It’s probably the most beneficial, direct impact on students of any provision in the bill because one of the most significant proportions of the uninsured in the country right now is students,” Altman said.

Although Brandon Hines, chairman of the College Republicans, agreed that this provision in the health care bill is beneficial for students, he said the bill taken in its entirety will have negative effects.

“It’s a maraschino cherry on top of a pile of dirt,” Hines said. “It’s one of those things that stands out as being a positive in the bill.”

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