Healthcare enrollment is open but deadline is approaching soon

Accessories decorate a doctor's white coat (Stock Image)

Accessories decorate a doctor’s white coat. (Stock Image)

Becoming an adult comes with various responsibilities such as building a career, time management and paying your own bills. Often times, individuals stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, but everyone’s situation is unique.

Many people are not offered employer-funded health insurance, so they can apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, however, the open enrollment period ends December 15 so one must act quickly.

People can only apply after this deadline if they qualify for a “special enrollment period,” and  if they want coverage to start as soon as possible, according to the ACA’s official website. To qualify outside the window for open enrollment, one must have a change in household status, like the having a baby or a death in the family, a change in residence or a loss of health insurance.

The Obama Administration implemented the ACA in 2010. The policy intends to make healthcare affordable to a variety of people, even lowering costs for households at the poverty level. It also encourages new ways to create cost-effective healthcare in general.

“The ACA mandates that an individual qualifies to stay on their parent’s health plan until the age of 26,” said Lee Daigle, an insurance consultant with OC Health Solutions, via an email.

Saddleback College international business major Lucy Lopez, 19, is not sure when her coverage ends.

“I feel like I should get started, actually, since I moved here from Mexico,” Lopez said. “That would affect me.”

She does not worry about her coverage status as she is currently covered under her father’s work insurance.  

Animal Science major Raeli Gamez, 20, is more involved with making sure her insurance is covered. She has not paid for 2018 yet because she pays her insurance through mail.

“I basically pay every month for healthcare,” Gamez said. “I know how much I owe, I know how much or when I’m late.”

Daigle noted there are two more periods to apply for coverage.

“If an individual applies for coverage between Nov. 1 – Dec. 15, their coverage would start on Jan. 1,” Daigle said in an email. “If an individual enrolls in coverage between Dec. 16 Jan. 15, their coverage would start on Feb. 1. If an individual applies for coverage between Jan. 16 Jan. 31, their coverage would start on March 1. “

Although the ACA requires Americans to get coverage or pay a tax penalty, Daigle stated that the current government administration will “not impose the tax penalty” starting this year.

People have the option to not buy health insurance. However, in the case that someone needs healthcare, the money will be used from their pockets because the International Revenue Service has the power to deduct the fees from the patient’s tax refund. At this point, the person has no say on what happens with his or her tax refund.

College students who reside in California are able to get a personal health plan with Covered California when they apply during the open enrollment period, Daigle added.

A childless, unmarried applicant who earns between $17,000 and $45,000 in annual income can qualify for premium assistance as long as they file their taxes and not claim themselves as a dependant.

“If the student’s annual income is below $17,000 for the year, then they could qualify for Medi-Cal coverage, which is low or no cost insurance provided by the government,” Daigle said in an email. “Medi-Cal does not have an open enrollment period and an individual can apply at any point during the year.”

Students at Saddleback College who do not have healthcare coverage can utilize the college’s Health Center as it’s open to all enrolled students. Students pay approximately $20 per semester for a health fee unless they have a fee waiver.

Saddleback Health Services Director Dr. Jeanne Harris-Caldwell shared the various services that the Center offers including diagnosis and treatment for the cold and flu.

“Basically anything you would get treated at an urgent care center with the exceptions of x-rays,” Harris-Caldwell said in an email. “So colds, flus, sore throats, women’s health including birth control and pap test, STD testing, pregnancy testing, wart removal, skin tag removal, cuts and lacerations, minor burns, ear and eye infections – pretty much any short term illness including rashes.”

The Center also treats students who have urgent or emergent medical issues without an appointment during the hours it is open.

“It is free to see a medical doctor, registered nurse or therapist once you have paid your health fee,” Harris-Caldwell said. “Prescriptions and laboratory services may have additional low-cost fees for services.”

The Health Center will be holding a Health Fair on Dec. 6 from 10- 2 p.m. at the Student Services Quad. Health care providers will be available to answer questions, provide coverage information and register individuals.