Passed almost one year ago, the Affordable Health Care Act aims to make health insurance more attainable to United States citizens, especially college students who often face the high expense of tuition.

The act’s provisions are just now beginning to take effect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a conference call with college journalists yesterday, department officials discussed health care protections that are now available for University students.

Steve Larsen, director of oversight for the HHS Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said young adults often don’t have health care because they can’t afford it, aren’t employed by someone who provides it or have pre-existing conditions that prevent them from being approved for insurance.

Young adults are twice as likely to be uninsured than other age groups, Larsen said.

Roughly 5 percent of University undergraduates and 10 percent of graduate students are without health insurance, according to a Jan. 19 Michigan Daily article,

However, provisions in the new act will give students a “peace of mind,” Larsen said, since dependents are now allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

Three million students are currently covered under student health care plans through their college or university, but many of these plans limit what is covered and which doctors individuals may visit, Larsen said.

The University offers an optional health insurance plan for domestic students and a mandatory plan for international students, the Jan. 19 Daily article reported.

Approximately 1,400 students are currently enrolled in the domestic plan, which costs $224.83 per month, according to the article.

However, the new health care law will guarantee that students receive the same health care as other demographics, which gives “students and young people more control over their health care,” he said.

The changes impact anyone enrolled in a U.S.-based health care plan, including international students, Larsen said.

Aaron Smith, executive director of Young Invincibles — an organization that works to make the cost of health care more reasonable for college students — said in the conference call that the act represents a “major victory for college students and their families.

“The availability of affordable health care has been something students have been requesting for years,” Smith said.

Eight out of nine colleges surveyed were found to have a clause in their insurance plans that excluded students with pre-existing conditions, Smith said, but the new act will prevent this.

In a world where 15 percent of adults have a chronic medical condition, Smith said, “all it takes is one accident or illness to rack up thousands of dollars in debt.”

He added that this kind of debt often forces students to drop out of college.

With the new act, 80 percent of every dollar a person spends on premiums will go to health care coverage as opposed to the current percentages, which often fall between 20 and 50 percent, Smith said. This change, and others like free preventive care, will begin to take place in 2012, he said.

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