College health plans vary in their quality and cost. In the past, federal and state laws have inconsistently regulated college health plans and have failed to require a basic baseline of coverage, rendering many of them insufficient. Moreover, these plans frequently discriminate based on pre-existing conditions and impose benefit caps. Profit margins for college health plans can be as much as five times the industry average.
However, students won a big victory in the healthcare battle this week as the Department of Health and Human Services announced that college health plans must comply with the same central provisions as individual plans in the Affordable Care Act. The proposed regulation means that health plans provided through colleges and universities will be held to many of the same standards that healthcare reform will require of other insurers.
Estimates show that as many as 4.5 million young adults are enrolled in college health plans. The majority of students are covered under their parent’s plans, but part-time students and those whose parents don’t have insurance fall back on these plans. Some students are required to purchase these plans even though they are eligible for Medicaid or a parent’s plan.
The improved standards include free preventive care, elimination of limits on lifetime benefit caps, a phase-out of annual benefit caps, a required medical loss ratio of 80 percent and no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. College health plans were initially excluded from these revisions in the health care over-haul, because they were considered “limited benefit plans.”
“As advocates for strong consumer protections for college students, we are very excited that students will finally begin to see better college health plans and much-needed protections from abuses of the insurance industry,” said Jen Mishory, deputy director of Young Invincibles