Healthcare Law Mandates Major Changes to College Student Plans

In August, some students will see higher premiums; others will lose their student insurance plans.

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At American and Montana State, as well as at other schools, student health insurance is required for enrollment. Students under 26 years old who opt to stay on their parents' plan, or have coverage through other means, can opt out of the school's plan.

[Read why the student debt crisis needs a long-term solution.]

This requirement means insurance premiums are included in the total cost of enrollment and can impact financial aid awards. It also helps keep costs down, Haubenreiser says.

"In order to provide access to care for everyone … and to be able to manage the costs, everyone needs to be in that risk pool," she says. "I think that's a critical piece to the success of these plans."

But schools with low-cost, low-coverage plans have a lot of ground to make up with the new healthcare requirements, and some opted to drop their student health coverage the upcoming school year as a result.

Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, Cornell College in Iowa, Bethany College in Kansas, and the University of Puget Sound in Washington state will no longer offer student health plans in the fall, according to a June article in the Wall Street Journal.

Bethany College's plan cost students $455 per year, but capped benefits at $10,000. Increasing coverage caps to the $100,000 required for the 2012-2013 school year would have raised premiums to $2,000 annually, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The impact of schools losing their "poor quality healthcare" raises the question of whether some health insurance is better than no health insurance, says Haubenreiser, the ACHA president.

"Is something better than nothing? No. You've got to have comprehensive, quality coverage," she says. "One of those super cheap plans will not cover them if there's an serious accident."

[Find out what healthcare reform means for consumers.]

While the Supreme Court upheld the healthcare law in its entirety in June, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding insurance requirements going into November's elections.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vows to repeal the law if elected, and on Wednesday, congressmen in the House voted for the 31st time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While the vote held more symbolism than legislative weight, it does leave many guessing what the future holds for health insurance plans.

"We try to anticipate what's going to happen … but in essence, it's what the federal law is that we have to abide by," says Thomas from Towson University. "We're sort of going by the seat of our pants."

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