Student Healthcare 101: What new tax rules mean for you

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Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

It’s that time of the year again; tax season. While many are scrambling to collect crumpled up W2 forms, health insurance is playing a huge role in how many file their taxes this year.

Due to the Affordable Care Act, anyone who filed taxes for 2014 must have had insurance that year or incur certain penalties. According to healthcare.gov, these penalties include either 1 percent of yearly household income or $95, whichever is more.

The penalty isn’t limited to just the filer, if any dependents were uninsured then the penalty will increase by however many dependents. Those figures are solely for 2014 though. The penalties increase each year and become substantially greater. The fee for 2015 will be 2 percent or $325 per person and 2.5 percent or $695 for 2016.

Tax penalties aren’t necessarily the number one concern for students looking for healthcare options. Obtaining a decent plan can mean the difference of paying a $100 or a $20 copay. That extra money can make a big difference for a student who is struggling financially.

Parkland College does not have a student health insurance policy and isn’t likely to get one anytime soon. There are a number of reasons as to why Parkland doesn’t offer a student health insurance plan. Director of Student Life, Dr. Tom Caulfield explained a few of these factors.

“Larger institutions are able to provide plans like student health insurance but we just don’t have those resources. We do offer wellness programs though,” Caulfield said. “We don’t want students to feel like they’re left empty-handed or in the dark. We also aren’t able to take on too much responsibility with supplying healthcare. We do offer a framework and information to help students look over plans and determine one that is best for them.”

For those that aren’t covered by their parents’ or work health insurance plan, there are still options available. Wellness Coordinator June Burch gave some insight into a few options that students have.

“Get Covered Illinois frequents the campus throughout the year. They set up in X150 and generally get a good response is signing students up,” Burch stated. “If someone comes into the Wellness Center, I’m able to listen to symptoms, get history, blood pressure and temperature. From there I can determine if they should see a pharmacy or go to the emergency room. I can help them sort out their options and refer them to a number of walk-in or free clinics around the area.”

Burch explained that she gets calls from parents from time to time as well. She can offer them a little insight into what they can do if their child is ill.

Some community colleges do have Registered Nurses and are able to provide limited forms of treatment. It’s important to note that the Parkland police officers are trained EMT’s as well, if any major emergency were to happen.

Burch would like to see more healthcare alternatives for Parkland students.

“In terms of just not feeling well, there could be something done and an investment by the college so students wouldn’t have to pay so much for a doctor visit,” Burch added. “We have around 1,000 students on campus who must be immunized for health professions. Not all are covered by insurance it can be very expensive. I’d like to see some way to ease that burden on these students.”

Implementing any plan to alleviate financial stress on students due to health insurance would possibly raise tuition or the student service fee. This may be the leading cause as to why many are hesitant to adopt such a policy.

For those seeking assistance with healthcare or wellness needs, visit the Wellness Center in Student Life, room U112 or contact June Burch at 217-373-3879.