What college students need to know about the Affordable Care Act

College students need to become versed in the Affordable Care Act.The Affordable Care Act, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in modern times, will begin its final phase of implementation when the state health care exchanges come online Oct. 1, 2013. Almost every part of American society will be affected by the new law, but college students and young adults will be at the crux of its reforms.

If you’re a current college student, or are considering going back to school, understanding some of the fundamental aspects of the ACA is crucial to how you will receive health care in the coming months and years.

Extending access for young adults

One change that the ACA has already brought about is the extension of the age of eligibility for young people who want to stay on their parents’ health insurance. Before the law was passed, the cutoff for access to that option was 24 years old. The ACA raised that age limit to 26¬†years old, expanding coverage to an estimated 2.5 million more young adults, according to a White House fact sheet.1

With national unemployment still hovering around 7 percent, and that number being even higher for recent college graduates,2 providing a way for young people who are out of school but just finding their footing in the job market is imperative.

Young adults key to making the ACA work

Among the most controversial aspects of the ACA is mandated coverage. That requirement was directed at young adults more than anyone else, since getting them into the health insurance system was key to spreading the cost of care out across the entire population.

Enrolling the 2.7 million healthy 18- to 34-year-olds in America who have traditionally decided not to pay for insurance is key to offsetting the costs for other, less healthy uninsured Americans, according to the Obama administration.3 Since most of the money people in that age group pay into the system won’t be immediately used, and the cost to insurance companies for that population is minimal, their contribution will end up helping to pay for people with pre-existing conditions and older Americans whose health costs go beyond what they pay.

Expanded coverage, expanded job opportunities

An added benefit of bringing so many new people into the health care system is that it will also create new job opportunities in the sector. There will be a greater need for medical office assistants, people with medical coding certification, graduates of medical billing programs and other health professionals.4

1 White House website, “Affordable Care Act: The New Health Care Law at Two Years.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/careact.pdf
2 Spreen, Thomas Luke, “Recent College Graduates in the U.S. Labor Force: Data From the Current Population Survey,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 2013. http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/02/art1full.pdf
3 Armour, Stephanie, “Young Invincibles Caught in Crossfire Over Obamacare Cost,” Bloomberg News, Sept. 23, 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-24/young-invincibles-caught-in-crossfire-over-obamacare-cost.html
4 Sebelius, Kathleen, “Affordable Care Act, Jobs, and Employer-Sponsored Insurance: A Look at the Facts,” SBA.gov, March 15, 2013. http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/health-care-business-pulse/affordable-care-act-jobs-and-employer-spo