Obamacare: Options for unemployed college students

I’m an unemployed college student with no financial aid and no income…What are my options?

Looking for Work

Dear Looking for Work,

If you have less than $10,000 in income, then you are below the income tax filing threshold and are not required to have health insurance. You will not face the tax/penalty for going uninsured.

If you live in a state that is “expanding Medicaid”, then you could apply for Medicaid. See Kaiser Family Foundation’s List of States Medicaid Expansion Decisions as of September 16, 2013.  You would qualify for Medicaid based upon your income and assets, such as savings accounts.

If your state is not expanding Medicaid and your income is less than 133% of Federal Poverty ($15,282 for a single person), then strangely enough you cannot go to your state’s health insurance exchange (or “marketplace”) and get subsidies to buy a plan.  This gap came about when the Supreme Court made it optional for states to expand Medicaid.  Lots of people are expected to fall into this gap – too poor to qualify for subsidies to buy health insurance.  Not to worry – the tax/penalty won’t apply to you.  You will easily fall into another exception: if the lowest cost plan costs more than 8% of your income, you are not faced with the penalty.

This still leaves you without insurance, depending upon what state you live in.  Before you need medical help, ask your student health center for a list of sliding-scale and free clinics.  In an emergency situation, a hospital cannot turn you away.  You would, however, be responsible for your emergency room bills.

Best wishes on finding a job (with benefits) in 2014!

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Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.