Mar 242010
Authors: Aaron Smith

The landmark health care reform law signed by President Barack Obama offers new consumer protections and improved coverage for practically every demographic in the U.S. College students, in particular, should look forward to more choice and greater opportunity as new insurance options open up, and the quality of student health insurance plans improves.

A major provision of the reform law is the expansion of dependent coverage. The law requires that insurance companies allow students (and non-students) to stay on their parents’ insurance until their 26th birthday.

This is a slight improvement over Colorado law, which allows dependent coverage up to age 25, but many other states have no such protections at all, even for college students.

As a result, this provision is expected to expand insurance coverage to more than 2 million additional individuals. For older students who may have otherwise aged out of their parents’ plans, this provision will extend coverage.

Other students will decide that their parents’ plan may offer better coverage than an individual or student option. Dependent coverage will go a long way to close the gap that so many students experience right after they graduate, improving health and freeing students to pursue their passion.

At the same time, the law explicitly protects the ability of colleges and universities to continue offering separate student health plans. This is important because currently 18 percent of full-time college students rely on student health plans.

Student insurance plans were offered at 71 percent of four-year independent colleges, 82 percent of four-year public institutions and 29 percent of two-year publics during the 2007-08 academic year.

As with any major piece of legislation, the work of defining the law does not end with the bill signing. Regulations will have to be put in place to clarify the language and certify that student health plans are subject to group plan requirements.

Ultimately, we believe these regulations will help end some of the worst abuses in college health plans like lifetime benefit caps and will require that insurance companies spend more on care and less on profits.

Student health plans are among the most profitable for insurance companies –– up to five times more profitable than typical insurance plans. Students deserve better and they will get better value and quality under this law.

It is the intent of the health care reform law to improve and expand the current system of student health insurance. As Obama said, “If you like your current insurance, you can keep it.”

At the same time, this new law offers a unique opportunity for student health insurance reform advocates to ensure that new student plans have better consumer protections, stronger quality controls and are available when you need it the most.

College students –– and all young Americans –– need the freedom to pursue their future without the fear of losing insurance. Thanks to the new health care reform law, the future is a little bit brighter for the young people of America.

Aaron Smith is a co-founder of Young Invincibles, a national organization committed to mobilizing and expanding opportunity for young Americans, 18-34 years old. Their Web site can be found at Letters and feedback can be sent to

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