The historic health care legislation passed by the House of Representatives late Sunday night has a lot going for it when it comes to helping out students and recent college graduates. Some benefits are pretty obvious, but other things that were buried in the bill could also have a big impact.
Your Parents Can Keep You on Their Health Insurance
One of the biggest changes is that young adults can stay on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26. Many states had allowed insurance companies to drop dependent children as young as 18 from policies. This means that your parents can keep you covered throughout college and even during grad school and doctoral work. It also means that if you get out of school and aren't working right away, you'll still have insurance. The bottom line is that more college students and recent grads will be covered. Recent private and government studies have shown that anywhere from 20% to 36% of college students between the ages of 18 and 23 are uninsured.
More Flexibility in Job Choice After School
For many recent grads (and the rest of us for that matter), a decision about whether or not to take a particular job can ride on whether it comes with health insurance. For many, freelance work, starting a business or working for an otherwise interesting small company is out of the question because they can't afford to buy their own insurance and don't want to go without. The new legislation makes this less of an issue. A young freelancer can stay on his parents' plan for a few years. People who want to start a business can access more affordable health insurance through insurance pools, and individual policies are expected to become more available and less expensive because of health insurance exchanges that states will have to set up. Over time, all companies but the very smallest will be required to provide health insurance to their employees.
Impact on Student Loans
People often complain when provisions that have nothing to do with the main point of legislation are buried in a bill. But this time around, college students will be cheering one such peripheral clause. It provides for more direct federal student loans. Rather than backing loans made by banks, the federal government itself will make more loans.
This will do two things. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will save the federal government $61 billion over the next ten years. Much of the savings will be used to increase the number and amount of federal Pell grants. More direct access to these federal student loans should make it easier and cheaper for students to borrow to pay for school
What is Good For College Students is Good for Everyone
I know there has been a lot of debate over the health care legislation, but in my personal opinion it's good for just about everyone. It provides better access to health insurance, better protection for people who get sick and more choices in the job market. It particularly gives a break to students who are just starting out in a tough job market. And why not? As I like to say, college students are people, too.