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Press Release: Students Gain Big Victory With New Protections under the Health Care Law

March 16, 2012
Matt Lawrence


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released finalized regulations that promise to improve health insurance for as many as 3 million students on college health plans. Since the passage of reform, Young Invincibles has advocated that college students receive the same basic protections and benefits as all Americans. These regulations accomplish that goal, a major victory for students and their families.

“The new student protections announced today mean that students will have the same basic protections and consumer rights as all Americans under the health care law,” said Co-Founder and Executive Director of Young Invincibles Aaron Smith. “For 3 million students, the new protections mean no more discrimination based on pre-existing conditions or insurance companies taking ridiculous profit margins on the backs of students and families. It also means free preventive care, and an end to lifetime benefit caps. This is a real victory for the health of students everywhere.” 

The finalized regulations will protect students by ensuring that college health plans are subject to the same basic protections as all individual insurance plans. Some of the worst practices in the college health plan industry would ultimately be eliminated. Currently some medical loss ratios are as low as 35% with internal benefit caps as low as $1,500, allowing profit margins for some college health plans to reach 5 times the industry average. As of January 1, 2013, a medical loss ratio of 70% will take effect for college plans, rising to 80% in January 1, 2014. Plans will also need to phase out annual benefit caps, with caps no less than $100,000 in the 2012/13 school year, caps no less than $500,000 in the 2013/14 school year, and no annual caps thereafter. Plans will also need to eliminate lifetime benefit caps. These are vast improvements for consumers.

There were some changes from the proposed rule, including weakening the rules on the annual benefit cap and MLR rule during the run-up to 2014. Overall, however these are strong rules that will benefit students greatly.

Furthermore, college students on these plans will gain access to free preventive care, including contraception, and an increased range of benefits. In 2014, college health plans will need to end discrimination due to pre-existing conditions.

As part of the final rule, HHS announced that religiously-affiliated colleges and universities would have the choice of a 1-year waiting period where they would not have to provide birth control through their college health plans. After that 1-year period, these schools will have to provide access to birth control with no-cost sharing, with the accommodation that the insurance company would have to cover the birth control but not the school. Because all students on college health plans deserve access to birth control, Young Invincibles will be working with students to encourage their administrations to make the choice to offer this critical benefit starting Fall 2012.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, by 2014, students should have a range of decent coverage options, from an improved college health plan to subsidized plans in the exchange, to Medicaid.


Young Invincibles is a national organization committed to mobilizing and expanding opportunities for all young Americans between 18 and 34 years of age.