Here’s a fact that might surprise—and scare—you: 19- to 29-year-olds make up a third of uninsured Americans! High medical costs are a fact of life (at least for now), so it’s important to know what your health insurance options are. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law on March 23, 2010, is changing the healthcare game. Since most of us collegiettes won’t be flipping through the 906-page document anytime soon, we’re giving you the scoop on how it affects you.
Haven’t been sick in years? It’s still important to know your options. Minimum essential health insurance is a must, not only because it will be required of most individuals come 2014, but also because if something should happen (knock on wood), it’ll wreak havoc on your finances. Though our generation will be able to boast new records for longevity, we also have to deal with higher-than-ever healthcare costs. Healthcare includes everything from a simple check-up at the doctor’s office to a visit to the emergency room. It includes blood tests, x-rays, prescriptions… everything you need to make sure you’re healthy and get the care you need when you’re not.
But it doesn’t come cheap. At all. According to the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, something as simple as going into the doctor’s office with a cold (and being told to go home and drink fluids) could run you upwards of $80. What if you went to the emergency room instead? Now you’re looking at around $180! Still, that’s tame compared to the cost of dealing with something more serious, such as an allergic reaction to a bee sting ($1,050 for the ER visit and necessary drugs) or a broken arm ($2,523 for the ER visit, x-ray and cast). Keep in mind that these price tags can vary by state. New Choice Health found that the average cost of an x-ray ranges from $270 in Miami, FL, to $490 in Washington, D.C.!
You might be thinking, “This can’t be right! I’ve never paid that much for going to my doctor or the ER!” Well, that’s probably because you have health insurance. These companies are footing the bill in exchange for your monthly payments, and sometimes a small out-of-pocket “co-pay” at the doctor’s office or ER.
Are You Insured?
If you’re under the age of 26 and your job doesn’t provide you with health insurance coverage, you are eligible to be insured under your parents’ health insurance. It doesn’t matter if you’re financially independent, not living under your parents’ roof, at school, or even married—you can still be legally covered by your parents’ plan! You still need to be looking ahead, however. As Congressional staffer Hilary Fulp puts it, “I would tell students just because you may be able to stay on your parents’ plan doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to be aware of what's going on. Be proactive in your health care choices and pay attention. You will be making these choices soon enough.”
If your parents don’t have health insurance or if you’re over 26, starting in 2014 you will be able to buy your own health insurance with the use of a direct, state-based system known as the “Affordable Insurance Exchange.” All of the companies vying for your business will have to adhere to certain standards regarding what they offer and what they charge. Ideally, these Exchanges will allow you to select the best—as well as the most economical—plan for yourself. (D.C. and 14 states have already started to form their Exchanges!)