By Alex Marchante
Nearly three in four college students and recent graduates have challenges finding affordable health insurance, according to a poll published by Agile Health Insurance in 2017.
Given that student loan debt in the United States has topped $1.4 trillion and average student debt in 2017 passed $37,000, according to debt.org, health insurance may be one of the last things on college students’ minds when it comes to their budgets.
However, Joan Koonce, a professor and extension financial planning specialist at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, explained that there are ways that college students can find ways to afford health insurance without financial burden.
“Student can stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26,” Koonce said.
The Affordable Care Act included provisions for all dependent children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26 years of age, which provided one of the biggest reliefs in health insurance for college students, Koonce explained.
Jomaree Fernandez, a public relations major at UGA from Marietta, Georgia, has found relief from the policy.
“I am still on my parents’ plan. I’m currently working two part-time jobs so that I can pay a lot of my college and living expenses on my own. We thought it would be cheaper that way and spare me an extra bill to pay,” Fernandez said.
Spencer McGuire, a journalism and cognitive science double major from Peachtree Corners, Georgia, gets his healthcare through UGA.
“I currently get my healthcare through United Healthcare Student Resources. I’ve been covered by my mother’s plan through her work before, but the UGA plan just made sense based on price and decent coverage,” McGuire said.
However, not all students have the opportunity to stay on their parents’ plans or are willing to accept the university’s plan. Students like Jocelyn Heredia, a marketing major from Athens, Georgia, seek individual health insurance plans.
“I got health insurance through healthcare.gov because they made the process easy for me and they gave me the instructions to create my plan through recommendations as to what plan was best for me. Although it’s expensive, healthcare helped my budget from the tax credits I receive to lower the cost of the coverage,” Heredia said.
Koonce explained there are several factors when considering plans.
“Once students have to start buying their own health insurance, I’d suggest that they buy high-deductible plans,” Koonce said. Due to high-deductible policies having lower premiums, they can be more affordable for typically healthy people who don’t go the doctor frequently.
“As a younger person, you tend to have to go to the doctor less. It’s unlikely that they’ll need it, but if they do, they’ll have insurance to cover if something happens that causes a major expense,” Koonce said.
In December 2017, republicans in Congress repealed the individual mandate for health insurance that stated all Americans must have health insurance, which means that those who do not have insurance will not face fines of several hundred dollars a year.
However, Koonce said that health insurance, although not mandatory, is important to have to protect against large expenses in the case of a serious illness or injury.
“Students nowadays tend to have more money than they think. They just tend to like to use the spare money for having fun. So the money they use for their leisure and recreation could be money they use to pay for their health insurance. If you’re buying high-deductible plans, the premiums can be less than $100 a month,” Koonce said.
“If they have extra money as well, they can use that money to create a health savings account for any serious situation to help with their deductible. If they don’t use the money in that account, at least it earns interest and at some point you could actually take that money out and still have it; you don’t lose it,” Koonce added.
Alex Marchant is a student at the University of Georgia.