The Impact Of Reform On Student Health Insurance Policies

Most four year colleges offer health insurance policies for their students, and the students are often obligated to purchase the coverage if they cannot show proof of coverage under another policy.  And in some cases, the rules are very strict in terms of what the universities will accept as alternate coverage.  A recent article in the Colorado State University newspaper got me thinking about how the new reform law would impact health insurance policies offered by universities.   One of the major drawbacks to many of the plans offered by colleges is the low annual and lifetime maximum benefits.  The very first provision in the Affordable Care Act is to do away with lifetime limits on health insurance policies (section 2711, on page 16 of the Senate Bill), and prohibit “unreasonable annual limits”.  The rule applies to “a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage.”  Does a college fall under that definition of a health insurance issuer?  I would assume so, but it’s not explicitly stated.  The only place in the bill where I could find language specifically addressing student health insurance was on page 372, in section 1560 (Rules of Constuction), subsection (c), titled “student health insurance plans”.  That section states that

Nothing in this title (or an amendment made by this title) shall be construed to prohibit an institution of higher education (as such term is defined for purposes of the Higher Education Act of 1965) from offering a student health insurance plan, to the extent that such requirement is otherwise permitted under applicable Federal, State or local law.
So colleges and universities will still be allowed to offer their own health insurance policies to their students.  It stands to reason that fewer students will be in need of such coverage since dependents will be allowed to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, but not all students have that option, and some will still opt to purchase health insurance from their schools.  But the question remains as to whether student health insurance plans will fall under the scope of the new law that prohibits lifetime maximums and unreasonable annual limits.  I hope so, but it looks like this will be one of the many details that still has to be addressed.
About Louise Norris

Louise Norris has been writing about health insurance and healthcare reform since 2006. In addition to the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she also writes for,, Verywell, Spark by ADP, and Boost by ADP, and Gusto. Follow on twitter and facebook.

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