Health insurance marketplace opens enrollment on Tuesday

Amanda Voeller

Enrollment for the new health care marketplace mandated by President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation opens on Tuesday, and many uninsured students will be required to buy health insurance. Currently, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Americans will be required to have health insurance to cover accidents and injuries by 2014.

Bob Moos, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services public affairs specialist, said those who are able to afford health insurance but do not purchase coverage by March 31, 2014, will be required to pay either $95 or 1 percent of their annual
income, whichever amount is greater. People who earn less than $10,000 annually are exempt from paying the fee.

Students who are not part of their parents’ health care plan will be able to obtain coverage through an employer, University Health Services or the health insurance marketplace.

The option with the least expensive premiums is the catastrophic health insurance plan, which covers accidents and injuries. People younger than 30 will be able to choose among four of these plans and the monthly premiums start at $104, Moos said.

“They protect you against the catastrophes in life — against very high medical bills — and they have lower premiums because they aren’t providing as extensive coverage as some of the other types of health plans,” Moos said. “You can say that the catastrophic plans basically protect you from the worst case scenarios.”

Moos said the catastrophic plan also includes three doctors visits per year. 

UHS currently offers students a Preferred Provider Organization plan with a maximum of $500,000 in annual benefits per student, but beginning in 2015, student health insurance plans provided by universities will provide unlimited coverage, Laura Chambers, director of the Office of Employee Benefits at the UT System, said.

Jaclyn Nguyen, Business Healthcare Association president, said she has noticed many students are unsure of what the whole health care reform package involves. She said she wishes more students were aware of the changes the act entails, because health insurance policies will affect their families and health for years to come.

“Whether you agree or disagree with new policy changes, exposure to policy is key,” Nguyen said.

Biochemistry freshman Lindsey Wilhelm said she is one of the students who doesn’t really understand the implications of the Affordable Care Act, even though she wishes she did.

“I’d like to understand it, especially since I’m going into the health care field,” Wilhelm said. “I often hear that doctors dislike it, but I don’t know how true that is.”

Mechanical engineering freshman Michele Koziol said she felt the same way.

“I definitely don’t [understand the reforms],” Koziol said. “I don’t really know if I’m for or against it because I don’t really know all the aspects of it and what it entails, so I wouldn’t know until I’m officially working … until I’m working and on my own, I’d have no idea.”