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Graduate should not overlook importance of health

Finding a job, continuing with school, moving out, finding an apartment or house in which to live and making it on one’s own are all concerns of a college graduate. While these are all imporant things to be concerned about, many students seem to skirt around the issue of health insurance. For many graduates, it is not anywhere on their list of priorities.

In a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that supports independent research on social and health issues, about 40 percent of college graduates have a lapse in their health insurance following graduation. For high school graduates who do not continue on to college this percentage is even higher.

For students currently attending the College, 70 to 75 percent of residential students utilize Health Services for their medical care. However, for many, the problem of insurance arises once they graduate and therefore no longer have coverage under the school’s health insurance, have aged off of their parents’ health insurance plan and are unable to find a job with coverage.

Some students are fortunate to have an idea of what to do for coverage and what options they have.

“After this I will either go through COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconcilation Act, or through the health insurance that is provided by the (graduate) school I will end up going to,” Christina Zelasko, senior science major, said. “I will have to pay for the insurance via school loans but it’s far better to have coverage than not to.” She said, however, that she has a friend who will not have coverage by January and will only be 22 years old.

COBRA, which Zelaska spoke of, is an act that allows for the continuation of group health care coverage that would otherwise be terminated. Benefits provided under this plan can include inpatient and outpatient hospital care, physician care, surgery and other major medical benefits, prescription drugs, and any other medical benefits such as dental and vision care. This is ideal for students who have aged off of their parents’ policy but would like to continue the same coverage.

Through COBRA, graduates have the option to purchase insurance at the group rate for up to 36 months after they have aged off of their parents’ policies. Coverage at the group rate tends to be much less expensive than purchasing an individual health insurance policy. The drawback to COBRA, however, is that a person can be charged with administrative costs. Also, it must be purchased immediately after graduation with a window of 60 days.

While students like Zelasko do have a plan for the future, there are still many students who are unaware of their options or have not thought about it yet. Senior journalism/professional writing major Mandee Wilton said she had not really thought about it and that she was not entirely informed of her options. “There is so much going on with school right now that that’s the last thing on my mind,” she said.

There are many options available to students who feel they will not be able to get health insurance coverage. In New Jersey, residents are guaranteed the right and the option to purchase a standard individual health insurance policy.

A program benefiting N.J. residents called the Individual Health Coverage Program was created with specific intentions to guarantee residents coverage from a variety of carriers for anyone who is not eligible for group coverage, a government plan or Medicare.

Through a standard policy customers are allowed to purchase the policy for as long as needed and cancel it at any time. The drawback to buying an individual policy, however, is that it can be extremely costly, especially to those who do not yet have a steady income. The Web site, state.nj.us/dobi/reform.htm, has more information about the state’s health coverage program.

Many alternative options for health care can come through an individual’s own existing coverage. A representative from Capitol Blue Cross said it offers a six-month comprehensive policy for individuals who have aged off of their parents’ policy and have not yet found a job with coverage. This policy, called the Short Term Major Medical Policy, allows for coverage at a reduced rate with a choice of a deductible and a premium based on the deductible chosen. This policy is nonrenewable and must be reapplied for at the end of the term, but does allow for coverage between graduation and a job. The Web site, capbluecross.com, has more information on this policy.


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