Purchasing health insurance early has its perks

Open enrollment for health coverage started Oct. 1, in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, despite a looming government shutdown and a debt ceiling crisis.

If you don’t have coverage, now would be a good time to start shopping around for some. About one in four Americans between 18-25 is uninsured, according to WhiteHouse.gov

This means anyone can begin shopping for their 2014 health insurance package right now, and check with the government to see if they qualify for lower rates, according to healthcare.gov

This also means people with lower incomes – many college students, for instance – can see if they qualify for Medicaid. Those with young ones at home can look into the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Open enrollment will be available until March 31. After that, anyone without health insurance may incur a penalty based on income, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2014, that penalty will be $95 per uninsured adult and $47.50 per uninsured child, or 1 percent of family income – whichever is greater. By 2015, that amount will balloon to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, or 2 percent of family income.

Like the Affordable Care Act or not, it makes sense to get educated on what health care you qualify for, and the most affordable way of getting it. Most college students are just starting to live on their own. Why not make sure you have a solid foundation?

People up to the age of 26 can stay on a parent’s work-related health care plan, according to WhiteHouse.gov

That coverage applies even if that person no longer lives with the parent, is married, or qualifies for a separate plan through work or school.

For those who cannot get health insurance through a parent, or are too old to qualify for that program, Medicaid may be available. Under the Affordable Care Act, all adults who fall under 133 percent of the poverty line – $15,000 per an individual or $31,000 for a family of four – can apply for Medicaid, according to CLASP.org

Despite the variety of information available to students, an article on USA Today shows almost 80 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds had heard nothing about the healthcare.gov marketplace or how to use it. This means many college students are still in the dark about getting themselves covered.

Health care isn’t just going to fall from the sky in 2014. It still needs to be applied for; and if necessary, it needs to be paid for. Whatever your opinion of “Obamacare,” it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.

Setting up an account on healthcare.gov is easy and relatively painless. Within minutes, you can find out the various forms of coverage you qualify for. Some programs can even be applied for on the very same website.

The Affordable Care Act was set up so those with low resources can get preventative care, and get inexpensive treatment for illnesses and injuries. 

A health care option is even offered by Oakland University and Graham Health Center. Some of you might not even need to take off your pajamas to get health coverage.

Open your web browser. Find out how to get insured.  You’ll thank yourself for it.