The Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Students in American Colleges

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Updated: Jun 28, 2022
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Politics. Something not often brought up in conversation unless you are looking to argue or make a crowd uncomfortable. Politics is also a confusing world, much like college is. As a college freshman I can attest to college being a confusing, but exciting place where you develop yourself and discover the “real” world. The Affordable Care Act has given the healthcare insurance world the same feeling as college is for me. The act was enacted in 2010 and affected not only the general public and insurance companies, but college students as well.

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College students went from drawing the short straw to having benefits that people with high end (and high price) plans had, but for much less. However, like most things, the good also has some bad such as increasing taxes and prices of insurance plans for those who already have healthcare plans. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as many know it, has the primary purpose of “[stopping] what liberals perceived as health insurer abuses and profiteering” from private health insurance companies (“Health Insurers are Being Battered by Obamacare, and they Deserve it”). This is beneficial to many college students who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for college tuition.

The act has three main benefits for college students according to U.S. News and World Report’s article by Brian Burnsend titled “5 Ways Health Reform Affects College Students”. The first is that the bill helps older students. Under old insurance policies, once a student had graduated with an undergraduate degree, they were no longer eligible to remain on their parent’s insurance plans. This was not something helpful to just graduated students seeking a job for the first time especially if they got injured and had no insurance or a bad insurance policy. With the Affordable Care Act children are now allowed to remain on their parent’s health insurance plans until they are 26 years old. This is helpful to not only graduates seeking jobs in a highly competitive economy, but those who are remaining in graduate school and having to pay their own college tuition until they receive a higher degree. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 67% of college students remain on their parent’s plans over getting student health insurance offered by their university. Yet, 30% of colleges require students to have some type of insurance to be enrolled, so the beneficial changes to student health insurance by the Affordable Care Act are important for students not on their parent’s plan who enroll with the government’s plan (“5 Ways Heath Reform Affects College Students;” “Insurance needs often overlooked by college students”).

The second benefit is that on campus health plans will improve. In general, campus health plans tend to favor the school as opposed to the student, but the Affordable Care Act changed that with requiring the campus health plans to be structured in a way that is more favorable to students. With University of Arizona’s student insurance plan, you are able to (with a referral from a campus health doctor) “[seek] care out in the community” (Campus Health Insurance Office, 1) which means that you are able to go to a different doctor, one of your choosing, while still being covered on your student health insurance plan. This is very beneficial to students with conditions that require a specialist that may not be available on the University of Arizona’s campus (“5 Ways Heath Reform Affects College Students”). The third benefit is that there are no more lifetime caps on coverage. A lifetime cap is when the insurance company limited the amount of costs they would cover for a condition throughout the person’s life. This meant that people with serious injuries or illnesses would only be covered for a limited amount of time, even if the disease is not curable, such as diabetes. However, with the Affordable Care Act insurance companies are no longer allowed to limit their coverage (“5 Ways Heath Reform Affects College Students”). I went over to University of Arizona’s campus health center’s insurance office and talked with Hannah, who’s job it is to answer questions about the University of Arizona’s student health insurance plans. Hannah agrees that college students are not prioritizing their health “cause we are busy- you know; it takes the backburner” (Hannah). Which is true.

Most college students are more concerned with grades and friends than they are with worrying what happens if they get injured. With most still on their parent’s plans, it is even less likely to be on their minds than it is for someone who has their own insurance. With campus health being “convenient… [and] right on campus” it makes people new to Tucson, Arizona, have an easier time finding a doctor and picking up prescriptions than trying to find an in network provider in the surrounding area (Hannah). With University of Arizona student health insurance, a student is able to use their insurance in the campus health pharmacy, whereas those who are not on the universities campus health insurance plan have to pay out of pocket, or find a different pharmacy. This is some of the “red tape” that Brian Bunsend mentioned in his article for U.S. News and World Report. The Affordable Care Act will not help students who want to exclusively use their campus’ health center because “most college health centers do not accept outside insurance” and if a student did choose to pay out of pocket they would have to obtain paperwork from their school’s campus health center to submit to their own personal insurance company to seek reimbursement (“5 Ways Heath Reform Affects College Students”). Hannah suggests students should be aware of the type of coverage they have and to look at the benefits of all your options to find the best coverage plan. While the Affordable Care Act has many benefits for college students, there is also some drawbacks. Merrill Matthews notes that “health insurers [will] always be the bad guys in… Obamacare” (“Health Insurers are being Battered by Obamacare, and they Deserve it).

Once the Affordable Care Act was enacted, many people, including students, lost their insurance coverage because certain policies were not in compliance with the act. Furthermore, since the act “gives” healthcare to everyone, even those who are unable to afford insurance, which then raises the price of insurance for everyone else. It also increases axes for those at a certain income level. This can negatively effect college students because when they get their first job, they are at the level of taxpayer where they have to pay for those who cannot afford their own insurance. This makes the cost of living more expensive for a newly graduated first time job holder (“The Pros and Cons of Obamacare”). The Affordable Healthcare Act also does not leave a lot of room for particularly bad injuries/illnesses that can occur. Anthony Jones, an insurance agent at Healthy Body and Mind Insurance Agency in San Diego, California, says that “to have adequate coverage for catastrophic illness of injury, students are better served by having their own personal individual health insurance or maintaining coverage under their parents plan” (Insurance needs often overlooked by college students”). This is because the Affordable Care Act has high deductibles for low income people (most college students) and it is hard for a college student to meet their deductible, so they never really get to use their insurance. According to, the maximum out-of-pocket deductible for a very low income individual is no more than $2,250.

For a full time, college student, making that much money would take a while to achieve. Some people may not meet it at all if they are fairly healthy and are only picking up a prescription or going to the doctor twice a year (“Health Insurance Deductible”). The Affordable Care Act has changed the way that college students, as well as all Americans, are able to view health insurance. Even though it did not make campus health centers have to accept all types of insurance, the act did reform campus heath insurance plans to be more favorite to students and give them more coverage for less. The University of Arizona’s plan is even able to be purchased for one semester if you are going to be graduating early or changing insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act also made it so that almost everyone is eligible to remain on their parent’s plan until they are 26, which not only helps students in their undergraduate years in college, but the students going to graduate school and who are looking to find their first job. Yet, for those who are not on their parent’s plan, the Affordable Care Act may have (for an individual low income plan) a high deductible that they may never meet which means that it feels like they do not have insurance since they are having to pay out of pocket for everything.

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The Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Students in American Colleges. (2022, Jun 26). Retrieved from