Older Students Hopeful about Health Care Reform

Ben Koconis | 11/24/2009, 4:41 p.m.

Students over the age of 25, the largest growing population of students in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education, are finding comfort in the fact that affordable health coverage may be on the horizon.

With new legislation in the works, it is possible that many current and older students, who previously had to pay high insurance premiums, may now be able to afford insurance through the Affordable Health Care for America Act; a bill that boasts coverage for 96 percent of all legal U.S. residents under the age of 65.

€I think it is about time that health coverage is affordable to older students,€ said Jack Korpella, a 31-year-old returning student, who will be attending Pinnacle College in Alhambra, Calif., for recording engineering this spring. €It is the least the government could do,€ he said.

Today, a large majority of students feel as if the federal government is not doing anything to support older students. President Barack Obama visited the University of Maryland College Park in September to address students and to pitch his new health care reform plan.

€If your parents have health insurance and you€re currently on their policy, you will automatically be able to keep your coverage until you are 26-years-old. If your parents don€t have access to health insurance, one of the ideas on the table is to give folks under 25 the chance to buy low-cost insurance that will protect you from financial ruin if you get seriously ill,€ he said.

Although Obama€s plan included insurance assistance for traditional college students, ages 18 to 22, it did not include assistance for non-traditional students €" those who are over 25 years of age, and who no longer qualify for coverage under their parents€ policies.

Korpella, an Obama supporter said, it would be great if he could turn back the hands of time. But that€s not the case.

€I think that if I was 23-years-old, Obama€s proposed policy would be awesome. But, I am not 23. I think everyone including me needs to be insured.€

Older students have also accrued substantial amounts of debt because they could not afford insurance while attending school on a full-time basis.

Dondi Uritti, 31, racked up a $1,800 emergency bill because he was uninsured while attending Northern Virginia community College.

€I was forced to go to the emergency room because no one else was willing to see me without paying money down. I have insurance now through my full-time job, but I have to choose between working full-time with insurance, and going to school full-time without it.€

Uritti said, he is excited to hear about the new legislation, but is frustrated that something like this did not come along earlier.

€If this legislation had already passed when I went to the emergency room, I would not have a bad credit score and might be further along in school.€

Although many older students are hopeful, there are still hurtles that must be overcome before the act becomes a law. The bill, which made it through the House of Representatives on Sat., Nov. 7, still, requires Senate approval. Older students are hopeful but not overly optimistic.

€I am very nervous that this bill will not pass,€ Korpella said.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported, in 1970 that 28 percent of all college students were 25 years of age or older. In 1998, the number of adult learners had increased to 41 percent. The number of students age 35 and older in degree-granting institutions has soared from about 823,000 in 1970 to an estimated 2.9 million in 2001 -- doubling from 9.6 percent of total students to 19.2 percent.

U.S News & World Report recently published their 2010 Best College Report, listing 97 colleges where 40 percent of the undergraduate student body is composed of students who are older than 25. Eighty-three percent of the University of Maryland-University College undergrads are older than 25. University of Maryland- Baltimore College is not far behind with 62 percent falling within that same age group. Ninety- seven percent of Missouri Southern State University€s student body falls outside of the suggested aid bracket the President discussed in September.

€I think people should pay attention when bills like this are going through Congress, and inform those who are unaware,€ Korpella said.

€It€s a critical time in our world and your opinions matter,€ he said.