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  • CLIFF GRASSMICK

    David Hsu, 34, a University of Colorado law student, studies in the commons of the Wolf Law Building on Wednesday. He gets health insurance through his wife s employer.

  • CLIFF GRASSMICK

    Jessica Bunnell, 26, a University of Colorado law student, studies in the commons of the Wolf Law Building on Wednesday. She gets health insurance from the university.

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Characteristics of the uninsured

Students age 19 and 20 are the least insured age group among students 18 to 23.

Part-time and older students are less likely to be insured.

Hispanic, Asian and black students are more likely to be uninsured than white students, with Hispanics being the least insured ethnic group.

Students in the West and South were less likely to be insured than those in the Midwest and Northeast.

Source: Government Accountability Office

New health care provisions are going into effect Thursday allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26.

A result of President Barack Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill, the federal law will allow young adults in Colorado to stay on their parents’ coverage for an extra year, extending the current state cut-off of 25.

Also beginning Thursday, insurers will be required to provide free preventative care in certain situations, and can no longer impose age caps on benefits or drop clients who get sick.

CU students said the age increase is great news for some, but others will continue to face difficulty finding affordable coverage.

Julie Mahoney, a first-year CU law student, said the extension will not solve her problem of expensive health care.

“My dad is self-employed, so they don’t have company benefits,” Mahoney, 25, said. “If they did, I would be all over that and be taking advantage of the extra year to stay on a company plan.”

Mahoney said she’s covered by CU’s student health insurance because the university requires students to have coverage. Her parents are uninsured and have been paying out-of-pocket for medical expenses because they can’t afford individual coverage.

“I’ve gone without health insurance for a while because it’s just so expensive, but I have to have it to go to school,” Mahoney said.

About two-thirds of college students, age 18 to 23, have company-sponsored plans either through their parents or through their own employer, according to the Government Accountability Office. While adding a dependent will likely increase premiums, students said they were much more comfortable letting their parents take the hit.

“I’d let my parents pay for me in a heartbeat if I could,” Mahoney said.

Students are automatically enrolled in CU’s Gold Plan in August of each year unless they submit proof of coverage through another company. The student plan costs approximately $1,150 per semester.

University officials said they will not see many changes to the student health plan until next year when more of the provisions have gone into effect, but they do expect to see a slight drop in graduate student enrollment.

“There may be a decrease in enrollment in our Gold Plan resulting from students staying on their parents’ plans longer,” said Michele Van Pelt, associate director of operations at Wardenburg Health Center.

While some students might choose to stick with their parents’ coverage, Van Pelt said since CU students are only getting an extra year, the decrease in enrollment should be very small.

“Also, nearly 50 percent of the enrollment in the Gold Plan is graduate students,” Van Pelt said. “Seventy percent of those students have the cost of the plan subsidized by the graduate school so it may be more advantageous for them to remain in the Gold Plan even if they would be eligible for their parents’ plan.”

Administrators said they will better understand the effects of the new health care provisions after the first of the year when they begin discussions about the 2011-2012 plan.

CU senior Garrik Isaac, 21, has had the Gold Plan since his freshman year and said he recommends finding an individual plan that is less costly.

“I have never once used the plan but the university forces you to have insurance so I keep paying for it,” Isaac said.

Tim Draftz, a third-year law student, said he can’t be on his parents’ insurance because he is married now. But after years of experience with various insurance companies, Draftz had a little advice to give to confused students.

“Stay on your parents’ plan as long as you can,” he said.

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