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Health & Fitness

Can foreign students get coverage from Healthcare Marketplace?

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Published:   |   Updated: October 21, 2013 at 08:23 AM

Young adults are among the most likely candidates for the new health insurance exchange, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically eligible.

College students have almost as many questions and options to consider as older individuals checking out the Health Insurance Marketplace, which opened its registration this month.

For example, the Affordable Care Act, which requires most Americans to have health coverage starting Jan. 1, created a rule that parents can keep adult children on their family policies until they turn 26. And they may have access to health insurance coverage available at their college or university.

But for some young adults, their parents aren’t able to help and money is very tight. That’s the situation Tampa student Priyank faces. He reached out to The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com’s Health Care Q&A to better understand his situation.

In addition to his financial limitations, he is also an immigrant, in the country legally on a green card permit. He wasn’t even sure if he could apply at the marketplace, which is open only to the 20 percent of Floridians who currently have no access to affordable health insurance or who buy policies on their own.

The Q&A, at www.tbo.com/healthcare/qa, is a place where we try to sort out specific questions Tampa Bay area residents have about the new health law. Here’s how we broke down the different situations Priyank must consider before deciding what he wants to do:

Q: I am 19, single and a full-time student at the University of South Florida. I have no income and receive grants and student loans to pay for tuition and lodging. I borrow the shortfall from an uncle. I am a legal U.S. resident (green card). My parents do not live here.

How can I buy insurance on the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act? And since I cannot pay for insurance, would I be penalized? What are my other options?

Priyank from Tampa

Answer: Your list of questions is a great example that there is no one answer for people when it comes to the Health Insurance Marketplace. It’s important that anyone shopping for insurance there — or anywhere else — be sure to ask a lot of questions before making any decisions.

Here are some answers for your situation:

1. As a legal U.S. resident, you will be required under the Affordable Care Act to get insurance as of Jan. 1. You won’t be penalized if you get a policy by March 31.

2. Yes, you can shop on the online marketplace at www.healthcare.gov. But you also can buy insurance elsewhere that provides minimum essential coverage, such as the student health insurance available through your school.

3. As a college student with no reportable income, you may be eligible for tax credits or subsidies on monthly premiums to help pay for the insurance. However, that option is available only if you buy a plan through the online program administered by the government.

4. If you make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level — about $11,500 — and you live in Florida, you may not qualify for subsidies. That’s because legislators in Florida and 25 other states have opted to not expand Medicaid insurance for the poor, leaving an estimated 760,000 state residents in this so-called “coverage gap.”

5. You also may be eligible to apply for an insurance exemption, meaning you can avoid the financial penalty. Being unable to afford insurance or making too little money to file federal income tax are among the reasons Healthcare.gov says it will allow a person to go without insurance.

mshedden@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7365

Twitter: @MaryShedden

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