STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Oct. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller today launched an outreach effort to educate college students, who may soon be buying their own health insurance for the first time, about options available to them under the Affordable Care Act. November 1 is the start of the open enrollment period to buy individual health insurance for 2016. She was joined at the announcement in Penn State's Hetzel Union Building by Dr. Robin E. Oliver, senior director of University Health Services, and Penn State student Emily McDonald, president of the University Park Undergraduate Association.
"Most college students have probably never thought much about health insurance -- and certainly not about buying their own," said Commissioner Miller at a news conference that launched the outreach at Penn State University. "But as students prepare to graduate and enter the job market, many will need to get their own health coverage for the first time."
Commissioner Miller announced that Penn State, along with other colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania, will be sending students a letter from the commissioner outlining the importance of health insurance and offering information on the options open to individuals under the Affordable Care Act. Recipients of the letter include the 14 members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the 89 members of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Montgomery County Community College.
The commissioner's letter reminds students that all Americans are now required to have health insurance or they may have to pay a penalty when filing their annual taxes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers students and graduates a number of health care options, including being able to stay on a parent's plan until age 26. If a parent is covered by a Pennsylvania employer's group plan, a dependent may have the option of staying on that plan through age 29.
"However, if you are planning on relocating to a different state or city after graduation, you may need to consider a different plan if many of the health care providers in your new area do not accept your current health plan," Commissioner Miller said. "We are encouraging all students to do their research when preparing to move."
The letter refers students to www.healthcare.gov, the federally-run marketplace where they can shop for health plans which are available where they live. Several different plans are available through the marketplace at different costs and levels of service. Students should review and compare plans to see which best meets their needs and fits their budget.
Last week, Commissioner Miller announced the rates she approved for individual health plans in Pennsylvania. This information is at www.insurance.pa.gov under Approved 2016 Affordable Care Act Rate Filings. Information to help consumers shop for health insurance is available on the department website under the Health link in the Coverage tab.
Under the ACA, consumers who do not receive health insurance from an employer can buy individual health insurance either through the federally-run marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, or directly from a private insurer. All plans sold either through the federally run marketplace or directly from private companies must include the same set of basic benefits. Individual plans may have additional benefits.
Consumers who purchase insurance through the federal marketplace on www.healthcare.gov may be eligible for subsidies to help pay for their plans. Students working part-time or not at all have a good chance of qualifying for these subsidies if they are buying their own coverage. Consumers are not eligible for subsidies on health plans bought directly from private companies.
"As graduates enter the work force or continue with educational aspirations, the decision on health insurance coverage becomes a very important one." said Dr. Robin E. Oliver, senior director of Penn State University Health Services. "With several options to choose from, our newest Penn State alumni need to educate themselves on the available plans and choose one that suits them best."
"I want to thank Penn State for making this letter available to their students," Commissioner Miller said. "Buying health insurance in an important financial decision that students and recent graduates face, and Penn State is continuing to fulfill its educational mission by helping its students make an informed decision on this key purchase."
For more information on open enrollment and shopping for health insurance, visit www.insurance.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman, Insurance Department, 717-787-3289
SOURCE Pennsylvania Insurance Department