MU Graduate Students Have Options for Health Insurance Coverage

 

MU Graduate Students Have Options for Health Insurance Coverage
Primaris Foundation can help students do the math, find affordable coverage

Columbia, Mo. – The recent decision by the University of Missouri to alter graduate students’ health benefits will mean some students will have trouble affording coverage while others may have access to fairly cheap and comprehensive coverage.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows many people who don’t have access to more traditional forms of coverage to get discounts on their monthly insurance bill (premium), but those discounts were intended to be for people who earn above the poverty level ($11,770 for a single person, more for larger households).

The ACA as drafted assumed that people earning below that amount would have Medicaid. But people in states without expanded Medicaid – including Missouri – are in the strange situation of making too little for ACA subsidies, and making too much for Medicaid in their state. This is commonly called the “Medicaid gap”.

Some graduate students may find they fall in the Medicaid gap. But some may not. Many students at MU are reimbursed for their work as research and teaching assistants, in the form of a discount on their tuition. According to IRS Publication 970, the value of this tuition reimbursement may count as taxable income.

Differences in eligibility can be stark. ACA subsidies are most generous for people just above the poverty level; the more you earn, the less generous the subsidies are. Also, people who live just above the poverty level get help with deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs on their health insurance plan.

An example: a single person earning $5.66 an hour gets very generous ACA subsidies, usually has access to one or more plans where the subsidized monthly premium is zero and has access to plans with relatively low deductibles. The same person earning $5.65 an hour in Missouri falls in the Medicaid gap. They are eligible for an exemption to the tax penalty for going without coverage, but that’s about it.

Given how starkly distinct those two situations are, it’s definitely worth it for students affected by this week’s announcement to do the math: figuring out how much you can reasonably expect to earn in taxable income for the year and backing that up with documentation.

The Primaris Foundation, formerly known as Knowledge Management Associates, can help. A proud member of the Cover Missouri Coalition, the Primaris Foundation offers free, unbiased insurance counseling from federally certified, state licensed experts in the ACA. Call today for an appointment: 573-817-8338, or contact us at insurancecounseling@primaris.org.

About Primaris Foundation
Primaris Foundation, formerly known as Knowledge Management Associates, was funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health to provide one-on-one assistance to Missourians and small businesses enrolling in the health insurance marketplace.