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Insurance market open until March

The reality of figuring out one’s options as a college student for reasonable health insurance can be a scary choice, said Dick Applequist, president and general manager at Prins Insurance in Sioux Falls.

“For young people aged 19-21, liability costs and other insurance fees will seem alarming,” he said, “I encourage them to enroll in some sort of plan. All they have to do is come into our offices and get a quote on an insurance plan, talk it over with our consultants and go from there.”

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, University of South Dakota students can now view their options through online marketplaces that are aimed to meet the needs of various personal circumstances, particularly those related to lowering monthly premiums.

According to a report issued in 2008 by the United States Government Accountability Office, 20 percent of college students are uninsured. In addition to local insurance companies, students have the option to browse healthinsurance.org, an independent website that shows the options available to those looking for insurance plans. Users on the site have the option to narrow their search by selecting their current state of residency and filling out basic information that will help determine the options available.

But just because the resources are available with the click of a mouse does not mean students know how to proceed in finding a reasonable rate that will cover essential health services. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, three quarters of people age 18 to 25 believe it is important to be insured, yet 80 percent of the people polled under 30 were barely knowledgeable of their marketplace options.

The online marketplace will open up a panel of new options for healthcare and other insurance policies for college students across the U.S., said Jill Krueger, assistant director of benefits at the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources. Krueger said that one of the few changes USD students will encounter will be the availability of insurance plans and how accessible insurance companies will be to them in the future.

“One of the major changes that will take place will be who health insurance companies will offer insurance to,” Krueger said.

The open enrollment period of the health insurance market is available Oct. 1 to March 31, and national organizations like Young Invincibles are attempting to provide information about the ACA and how the health insurance exchanges can work for their benefit.

Here are some of the tips provided by The Invincibles’ website on how the online marketplaces will affect students:

– Students with pre-existing conditions, from asthma to cancer, are not under the threat of being denied coverage.

– Students who earn less than about $46,000 or families that earn less than $94,000 annually may be able to access free coverage through Medicaid or discounted coverage through monthly tax credits depending on the state and their exact income level.

– New plans will provide a plethora of services like annual checkups, prescriptions and substance use disorder services.

Krueger said health insurance will be made available to all patrons, but that USD students and faculty will not experience any major alterations.

“A person will be able to get health insurance regardless of their state of health, financial situation and any other limitation previously enforced,” she said. “For current USD employees, there really won’t be any change.”

USD students will also have the option to remain on their parent’s plan until the age of 26, unless they choose to stand as independent of their parent or guardian, in which case they are recommended by Healthcare.gov to enroll in a plan. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, healthcare companies cannot refuse to give a person health coverage or charge them extra fees just because they have a pre-existing health condition, said Diane Zak, director of human resources at USD.

Christian Hansen, sophomore and employee at the I.D. Weeks Library, finds the changes in healthcare will serve some trouble down the road but feels content for the time being.

“I’m nervous that when I do get to the age where I have to get my own plan I’ll have to pay higher premiums than I would as an adult before,” he said. “However, I am comforted by the fact that as I age those premiums won’t rise as much as they would have either.”