The landmark health care reform legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama on Tuesday mandates significant changes to the current health care system, some of which could be particularly helpful to graduate students.
Under the new legislation, most U.S. citizens will be required to have health insurance, but young adults now have the option to stay on their parents’ plans longer.
This could be particularly useful for graduate students, because many do not have much income and health insurance is not necessarily within the budgets of many students, said Johannes Schmitt, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
Currently, students are left to purchase their own health insurance after graduation, but the new legislation will allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 27.
Whether young adults decide to stay on their parents’ plan is up to each family, said Jeffrey McCombs, associate professor and health care expert at USC. He said families should weigh the cost of keeping a dependent on their insurance against the price of buying a new plan for the young adult.
“The family premium is going to be higher than before,” McCombs said. “How much extra is it for family [plans] vs. for personal? Personally calculate it.”
Currently, many adults coming out of college choose not to buy health insurance at all because they feel it is not necessary when they are healthy, said Dana Goldman, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center.
“A lot of people are uninsured since they leave college … In general, health insurance is not a good deal,” Goldman said. “They are generally being asked to enter a risk pool for people who are not healthy.”
Remaining uninsured will no longer be an option with the new legislation, however, as the national health care reform mandates that all U.S. citizens have their own insurance, with very few exceptions.
Opting out of insurance is particularly common among Ph.D. and graduate students who are not taking enough units for USC to require them to purchase a health plan, Schmitt said.
GPSS senator and first-year medical student Jenny Farah said allowing students to remain on their parents’ health insurance bill is going to help many graduate students.
“For many graduate students … we weren’t under our parents’ plan,” Farah said. “That’s one of the big changes I anticipate for next year, that more students are going to choose their parents’ plan.”
Schmitt, however, noted that the new health care plan could cause problems for graduate students who are older than 26 and want to remain uninsured.
“It’s going to be costly,” Schmitt said. “Many grad students nationwide are uninsured and now are required to be insured. For some it’s going to be a tough choice what to do.”
Farah and Schmitt said the USC health insurance plan is reasonable for most students, but there are certain cases, such as if a student is married or claims a dependent, where the costs skyrocket.
The Graduate and Professional Student Senate has been working with USC insurance to create a new plan for graduate students they hope will alleviate some concerns about costs, according to Farah.
“USC is a very big proponent of everyone being insured,” Farah said. “They were really great about making sure that would be addressed for next year.”
The new legislation will help all students once they graduate — whether or not they choose to go on to grad school.
Kanika Jain, a senior majoring in business administration who is set to graduate this spring, said she would like to stay on her parents’ plan once she graduates.
“Thinking about health insurance right after you graduate is overwhelming, among all the other things to worry about,” Jain said. “Having my parents’ insurance plan just provides some comfort that I’m going to be taken care of for the next couple of years.”