Healthcare For All? Not If You Are A Poor College Student

Posted on October 16, 2010
by FeliciaOctocog

Currently, Salem CyberSpace is following 22 students at various colleges around Massachusetts.  All of these students are low-income, most live with one parent, and with few exceptions they went into college covered under their mother or father’s MassHealth medical plan.  Miguel, our first student to turn 19, currently a sophomore at Montserrat College of Art, found himself unable to register for classes because he no longer had health insurance. This prompted a phone call to me.

I could not believe this to be true so I called MassHealth and found out that, indeed, at 19, he no longer could be covered under his mother’s MassHealth plan.  “How could that be?”, I asked. The US just passed Healthcare Reform allowing full-time students to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.  Well, I found out that this only applies to students whose parents have private insurance plans and does not apply to low-income, full-time students, on MassHealth.

So my next call was to Commonwealth Care. Certainly, he would be able to apply for health care under this plan.  Well, I found out that if you are a full-time student with access to healthcare from your school, you do not qualify. It turns out the cost of this care is close to the cost of the insurance offered at Montserrat, but at some other pricier colleges, this is not the case.

So if Miguel wanted to continue with college, he had to purchase the Aetna Student Health Plan for about $1200/year.  That is, $1200, he did not have.

I called Montserrat and explained the issue and the response from the school was phenomenal.  They provided Miguel the money to purchase the insurance, not wanting that to be a reason to drop out of college and wanting to keep a talented young kid who was doing all the right things, in school – in their school.  But are all kids that lucky? Would most low-income kids with parents who don’t know how to work the system or don’t speak English be able to advocate and intervene for these kids? How many kids go that much more into debt to stay in school, or worse, drop out?

It is time, the laws changed.  MassHealth youth should be allowed to stay on their parents plan if (1) they are dependents and (2) are full-time students.