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Impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on College Students

In addition to figuring out how to pay for tuition, books, and housing, college students need to be aware of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, on their finances.

You’ve probably heard lots about this program, but there is still quite a bit of confusion and misunderstanding out there. The best way to approach this issue is to become informed about it. One reality is that the program will have a definite impact on health care insurance for students. One of the impacts is you will have more options to compare and contrast. You’ll need to figure out which option makes the most sense for you. One thing to know is that effective January 1, 2014 most people will need to have health insurance coverage that meets the requirement of the ACA, or pay a tax penalty.

If you are under 26 and your parents have health insurance that covers family members, the law allows you to stay on their plan in most cases. This is one very positive aspect of the ACA for young adults. We recommend that you check with your parents to see if this provision applies to you. If it does, staying on your parents’ plan might be the lowest cost option available to you. This coverage is available even if you are considered financially independent, and is available regardless if you are single or married. Costs for this coverage might go up, however, because many plans charge higher premiums when you add additional family members.

Check the provisions of your parents’ plan carefully if you are considering being covered by their plan. Some plans limit the physicians and other health care providers to those in their network. This is particularly true in the case of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). If you attend school outside the community where your parents live, you might have to go to an out of network provider. This can result in less coverage or more expenses.

Another option to consider is the student health plan offered for students at KSU. In the past these plans had limits on their coverage. Limits on coverage is something that the ACA is addressing. According to Professor Roberta Riportella, Professor of Community Health at KSU, the KSU Student Health plan meets the requirement for coverage under the ACA. This could be a lower cost option for students that qualify for coverage. Check out the following website for info on this plan: https://www.uhcsr.com/SelfServiceSupport/Students/CollegeHome.aspx

A new feature of the ACA just now being rolled out is the online health insurance exchange. In this exchange you’ll be able to see the health insurance companies providing policies in your state. You’ll also be able to choose benefit packages ranging from basic coverage in the bronze plan to higher-level coverage in silver, gold, and platinum plans. You’ll pay more in premiums for the higher levels of coverage. You can access the health insurance exchange at the following link: https://www.healthcare.gov/

Professor Riportella has been very active in posting information to a blog that clears up a lot of the misinformation regarding the ACA. Her blog can be accessed here: https://blogs.ksre.ksu.edu/issuesinhealthreform/

Finally, Professor Riportella discusses the ACA and its impact on college students in the following archived recording from a session presented to students on November 5, 2013. If you missed her workshop you can check it out online. It would be worth your time to watch this informative session. The video at the beginning of her presentation covers a lot of the important info you need to know. Here is the link: http://www.k-state.edu/grad/students/workshops/aca.html

Rob Jones, M.A.Ed.
Peer Financial Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Evaluating Employee Benefits and Perks

When considering a job offer, many people think the most important factor is the salary. Actually, it is just as critical to analyze the ‘secret’ money – benefits and perks that are offered by an employer. Some benefits to consider include a comfortable and casual work environment, flexible work schedules, an option to telecommute, gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and a casual dress code.

Typical Employee Benefit Packages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of annual paid holidays is 10.  Paid leave time also can include sick and maternity leave. Almost half of medium and large employers offered either a defined benefit or a defined contribution pension plan. But they may have some requirements. For example, you can join the plan after working a required number of years for the company. Or you must work for the company a certain number of years before you become “vested” and own the company contribution portion of your plan.

Every company has different requirements when they offer health insurance.  Some may require an initial premium payment  after which, the policy itself will cover you and your family.  Be sure when making insurance selections that you know whether or not the plan will include dental, vision or disability coverage and whether or not there will be any out-of-pocket expenses. Life insurance is also a common benefit associated with most insurance solutions. Employers usually provide an amount equal to a percentage of your annual salary for insurance needs with an additional option to purchase life insurance when necessary.

How to Evaluate Perks

Employers believe that an advantageous way to attract top employee talent is offering perks and benefits outside of the initial base salary. However, not all benefits are necessarily the best fit for you. The true value of perks being offered from the employer should be determined not by the overall quantity or dollar value, but by the benefits that make a true impact on the lifestyle you live. As an example, if living an active healthy lifestyle is important for you as an employee, it may be valuable to look for companies that offer gym memberships to employees. An extreme example of this would be looking for companies that have a gym inside of the office as this perk is becoming more and more popular in the modern day workplace.  Another example of perks would be companies that offer a flexible work schedule. If you are not a morning person, being able to come in later and be more productive creates a win-win situation for both parties! Just remember, when a company is a better fit for you, you are also a better fit for them.

 

Angela Li
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-skate.edu/pfc

It’s almost time to graduate! Money tips for college graduates:

If this is your last semester at Kansas State University then there is no doubt that you are busier than ever.  You are sending out résumés, preparing for interviews, applying for graduation, and finally purchasing your cap and gown!  Everything you are doing now is exciting and your life is about to change dramatically as you transition from being a student to being a full-time employee.  As you’re building your career and life outside of college there will be many financial decisions that you will need to make.  Here is a list of a few things to consider as you prepare for graduation and beyond.

How are you going to manage your debt?

Many students will graduate with student loans that need to be paid off.   The first step you will want to take as you get close to graduating is to find out who your loan servicers are and set up accounts with them.  Your loan servicer is the company that hosts your loan and who you will be making payments to.  After you have set up an account you will want to decide what kinds of payments you will want to make, such as standard or graduated.  Powercat Financial Counseling has brought SALTmoney.org to Kansas State University students and alumni and this is a great interactive website to use to understand what your loan payments will be.

Do you know your credit score?

Your credit score is a number representing your creditworthiness based on past and current credit files.  The range of credit scores is from 300 to 850 and new graduates need to be aware of the dangers of a poor credit score.  Bad credit will make it hard to get an apartment, car loan and even a job.  There are many ways to build your credit score, but one simple way is to make all payments on time and never miss a single payment.  You can view your (unofficial) score for free anytime at www.creditkarma.com.

Do you have a budget?

Upon graduating college and obtaining a job you will start to have a lot more income, but also more expenses.  It may be hard to begin managing your money and new expenses so it is a good idea to start sticking to a budget.  A budget is not meant to have a negative connotation; it is simply a way to control your money instead of letting your money control you.  If you would like to start forming a budget Powercat Financial Counseling has spending plan worksheets available online at www.k-state.edu/pfc/budgeting.

Will you start saving?

Hopefully when you graduate you will begin to have money available for savings, and your employer is likely to offer retirement plans such as 401(k)’s.  If your company will offer to match your contributions to your 401(k) then you should take this opportunity, it’s basically free money!  Another reason to think about saving as soon as you graduate is that interest on your savings grows exponentially so the sooner you start saving, the more you will have when it comes time to retire!

Are you insured?

Students used to be removed from their parent’s health care insurance immediately after graduation; however under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, parents may now keep their children on their insurance until age 26.  This may be a relief to a few of you because it gives you a little more time to build up income before you must pay for your own insurance.  As you graduate and accept a full time job you will want to assess your company’s health care plan and talk with your parents about whether or not you will stay under their plan for a little longer.

 

There are many other decisions that will need to be made around graduation time and countless other questions that you may have, but hopefully this list will help you get started thinking about your financial future! For further questions, please request an appointment at www.k-state.edu/pfc!

 

Wende Witthuhn
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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