Department of Health announces new plan to extend coverage to college students

New plan aims to keep college students from “falling through the cracks.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new plan to extend coverage to an additional three million college students through the Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 by adding additional benefits to the student health care plans.

In a conference call with college media outlets Wednesday, the HHS discussed the effect of new provisions in health care reform legislation.

HHS Division Director Steve Larsen opened the discussion by saying the new proposal provides extra protection to college students not currently protected by the national health care law.

"One of the most vulnerable groups in our old healthcare system was young adults, especially those in college," said Larsen. "When our young people graduated from college they not only looked for a job, but they were also looking for a job with benefits."

Jessica Moore, spokeswoman for HHS said as of Jan. 1, 2012, pre-existing conditions and medication exclusion policies would be discontinued. The ban on lifetime benefit caps will take effect on Jan.1, 2014.

"In addition to the restrictions being lifted on medications like insulin, the proposal requires that college and universities health care plans meet an 80 cents per dollar ratio with 80 cents going to pay for healthcare, not for administration costs," Moore said.

According to HHS statistics, Larsen says he felt like college students were ignored and often fell through the cracks of the old health care system.

"America's young people are more than 20 percent more likely to go without health insurance," Larsen said. "This means that there are thousands of young people wondering about how they are going to pay for their next doctor's visit, who do have the medicines they need. This new proposal will provide coverage and answers to those students."

Larsen pointed out students impacted by the new proposal are those who receive health insurance through their university's student health care plans.

"Nationwide, 1,500 to 2,000 colleges and universities offer their students a student healthcare plan," Larsen said. "The Affordable Health Care Act did nothing to impact these students. This proposal will allow those 3 million students who participate in student healthcare plans to receive coverage that every other American receives through the new health care law."

Aaron Smith, of Young Invincibles, a Washington D.C. lobbyist firm for young Americans, says this is not a new issue, or even a win-lose issue, but a win-win for all young Americans.

"As a whole this debate over universal health care is nothing new, this is not a debate where one side has to win and another has to lose," Smith said. "Instead this is a win-win, because this proposal will result in extended coverage for college students."

Larsen said the proposal reinforces the new guidelines about restrictions and makes them applicable to all students with student health care plans.

"For every 20 schools offering coverage, 8 had exclusion principles in place like pre-existing conditions, lifetime benefit caps, medication exclusion, the list goes on and on," Larsen said.

Steve Bloom, of the American Council of Education (ACE), which represents the interests of higher education institutions, says the ACE is extremely pleased with this result.

"Our primary concern for our students is always quality healthcare, access to health care and affordability," Bloom said.

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