New insurance requirements

Make+sure+to+hand+in+your+health+insurance+forms+to+avoid+a+charge+of+%24817.60.

Callah Kraus

Make sure to hand in your health insurance forms to avoid a charge of $817.60.

Leah Ulatowski , Copy Editor

Some Lakeland College students were surprised to discover that undergraduates without insurance face automatic enrollment in the institution’s health plan and a charge of $817.60 for seven months of coverage.

In preparation for the Affordable Care Act, the college has issued hard waivers in seeking proof of insurance, which are due no later than Dec. 1.

“When the government was looking for affordable health care options, college students were on the radar because there are instances where they face emergencies and need medical attention,” said Lisa Stephan, senior director of student development. “If they do not have health insurance, it can be a major barrier to the completion of their degrees.”

According to Stephan, a number of committees from private colleges meet regularly through the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), and together they formed the new requirements. They met with a number of different health insurance providers last year and eventually selected Wisconsin Physicians Service (WPS).

“Knowing that compliance with the Affordable Care Act begins in 2014, we wanted to make sure that we were being proactive and getting the wheels going,” said Stephan. “The Lakeland plan that covers Jan. 1 to July 31 does not meet all the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, but the plan for Aug. 1 through July 31 will be compliant.”

The Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, is an attempt by the Obama administration to make health insurance more readily available, and those who refuse coverage will be fined.

NBC News’ Lisa Myers reported that millions of Americans could actually lose their insurance because their current policies do not meet the new law’s requirements, which resulted in President Barack Obama issuing a public apology on Nov. 7.

Needless to say, the law has been met with mixed reviews, and it seems Lakeland’s new requirements have stirred up similar reactions.

“The whole thing is quite inconvenient, especially since you get charged a ridiculous amount if you don’t get the forms done and turned in on time,” said Katie Christensen, sophomore piano performance and pedagogy major. “I think it is unnecessary and unreasonable to ask this of students when we already have so much on our plates and so many strains on our budgets.”

“I don’t understand how they have the authority to force it on us. I know new federal policy requires that we have health insurance by the end of next year or face fines, but I cannot afford health insurance,” said Todd Sancinati, a former student who found it difficult to comply with the requirements before his recent departure. “An $85 fine is much cheaper than roughly $200 a month out of pocket or my taking another $2,000 in loans out every year to pay for health insurance.”

According to Forbes.com, a first time offender of the Affordable Care Act policy would be fined $95 or 1 percent of household income in excess of $10,000, which would be no more than $200 based on the average undergraduate’s earnings.

On the other hand, Lakeland’s health insurance would cost approximately $117 every month.

Some students may qualify as dependents who can be placed on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26.

“There have been Lakeland students who were saddled with thousands of dollars because they didn’t have coverage and there was an emergency,” said Stephan. “It’s sad that they had to drop out due to this huge bill, so I absolutely understand why a movement like this is important. I also understand that it’s one more criteria and financially there are implications for students.”

If Lakeland’s insurance proves too costly, Stephan suggests that uninsured students explore their options in the market place exchanges via healthcare.gov because they may qualify for free or reduced health insurance.

For health insurance facts, click here!