Students starting the new school year have one less thing to worry about thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
With the announcement this week that Western Michigan University (WMU) will no longer offer student health insurance, there were probably more than a few students wondering, “Now what?”
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has the answer. Thanks to the ACA (aka Obamacare), students have an affordable coverage option.
Losing any current health coverage is considered a “qualifying life event” under the ACA. That means that students who lose their coverage qualify for a “special enrollment period,” so they can sign up for a new health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace at Healthcare.gov.
Here are six things newly uninsured WMU students need to know about enrolling for coverage:
1. All newly uninsured students can enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace right away, before enrollment reopens in November. Students who lost coverage have a chance to enroll immediately through the Marketplace. Plus, many lower-income students may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid — which has year-round enrollment.
2. Don’t delay. There is a 60-day window to sign up. The special enrollment period ends 60 days after loss of coverage. Students should check out their options and pick a plan during that time-limited window so they don’t spend the rest of this year unprotected.
3. Many Michiganders who enroll through the Marketplace can receive financial assistance to lower the cost of their plan. In fact, 78% of Michiganders who enrolled in coverage received financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums. So even a student on a tight budget has options for plans that fit their needs and budget.
4. The plans are not only affordable, they’re high quality, too. Every plan must cover 10 essential health services, including emergency room visits, prescription drugs and preventive care. And remember: No one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, even if they’ve been sick or denied coverage in the past.
5. Free, one-on-one enrollment assistance is available. Michiganders can visit the Get Covered Connector to see where free, local enrollment assistance is available in their area and schedule an appointment. These assisters can walk students through their options, help them pick a plan that’s best for them, and make sure they can get coverage as soon as possible.
6. Anyone without health insurance might have to pay a fine. The start of the school year is exciting … but paying a fine for not having coverage won’t be. The fine for not being covered in 2015 is $325 per adult or 2 percent of your income, whichever is greater. And that’s not even counting the cost of care in the event of illness or injury.
To enroll, visit Healthcare.gov. If you qualify for Medicaid under the Healthy Michigan Plan, you’ll automatically be directed there or you can learn more at the plan’s website. For in-person assistance, check out the Get Covered Connector.
[Image credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr.]