A Simple Health Care Fix for College Students

February 17, 2017

The Affordable Care Act has allowed millions of Americans to gain health care, and I was one of them. But that doesn’t mean the law is flawless. In October 2016, I had an unfortunate accident in which I dislocated and fractured my ankle. This might not seem like a big deal, but I happen to attend college over 600 miles away from home, where my insurance covers me. And the challenges that I encountered as a result help explain why the ACA is in need of reform.

I applied for the ACA at the end of 2014 and was enrolled under Medi-Cal (California’s state-level equivalent of Medicaid). However, in the summer of 2015 I was kicked out of Medi-Cal for “having too much money” and again had to apply for insurance. As I was choosing my new Medi-Cal plan, I was told that I would be covered anywhere in California. I was not aware that by picking my primary care physician, who was in the San Gabriel Valley, it would mean that I would not be covered in Humboldt County. Due to this confusion, it became a struggle to get the necessary care for my injury in a timely manner.

Not being covered across the state for emergency accidents mean that I had to be driven down to Southern California to be looked at. I had to call my insurance a few times just to set an appointment to see an orthopedic. Here is where one of the flaws that the ACA, Medi-Cal, and health insurance fall under: I had to call anywhere from one to two weeks ahead to get permission to make appointments. Once my cast was removed, I had to get permission to see if my insurance would cover a walking boot, which took another week to approve and a week after that to have delivered. As a result of all the time I had to spend dealing with this, I ended up losing a semester, forcing me to delay my graduation, damaging my GPA, and costing me thousands of dollars in student loans and financial income.

I am not the only person to have encountered a challenge like this; many in my university have had similar issues. And there is a simple solution: Instead of repealing the ACA, improve it by having an insurance designed for college students. The ACA allows those 26 years old and younger to stay under their parent’s insurance plan, which helped millions; however, college students don’t always live near home. In my case, having insurance that would cover me anywhere in the state of California, not just for ER emergencies, would have prevented such a struggle.

Students are constantly moving around, whether it be transferring schools or simply moving house to house, students should not have to worry about their insurance. They should know that if they continue to live within the same state they won’t have to change their insurance.